Lone survivor of plane crash asks, ‘why me?’

One minute Brian Shead was reading his book as a charter plane he had flown on many times before made its descent into a remote northern Ontario aboriginal community.

WINNIPEG — One minute Brian Shead was reading his book as a charter plane he had flown on many times before made its descent into a remote northern Ontario aboriginal community.

The next minute, Shead found himself on a snowy lake in a broken aircraft, surrounded by four other people knocked unconscious and still strapped in their seats.

The right wing of the plane was on fire.

“After repeated, unsuccessful attempts to unstrap the others from their seats, I went around the plane and tried to put out the fire on the wing,” Shead said Thursday, speaking publicly for the first time since the Jan. 10 crash near North Spirit Lake.

“My efforts there were also in vain. As the fire spread and began to enter the cabin near the rear of the plane, I made a final attempt at the pilot’s window. Finally I was able to release the pilot’s seatbelt and haul him out of the plane. I pulled him as far as I could before collapsing in the snow.”

It’s a scene the 36-year-old relives every night when he closes his eyes. Shead, a Winnipeg-based administrator for First Nations, escaped with a crushed foot and facial injuries, but the pilot and the three other passengers died.