A local resident who saw the single engine amphibious air tanker crash on a lake in British Columbia on Saturday said the Air Tractor 802F’s landing gear was down when it attempted to scoop water to refill its tanks.
From the Canadian Press:
A father and his son defying an evacuation order to save their waterfront home from a raging forest fire instead ended up in a race to save a waterbomber pilot whose plane had crashed into the lake.
Ed Hall and his son Fraser chose not to leave when 2,200 of their neighbours were ordered to do so on Thursday and the Terrace Mountain fire spread in the hills across the lake from Vernon.
Fraser Hall said he was testing out some new video equipment Saturday, filming as the planes dipped into the lake to get water to dump on the fire.
“And this last guy came in and we looked at each other and said ‘Oh my gosh he’s got his landing gear down,’ and we knew this was a recipe for disaster,” Ed Hall said in an interview Sunday.
The pair watched in stunned amazement as the plane somersaulted along the water.
“But fortunately, the cockpit landed cockpit up. So the pilot was sitting in the cockpit, you know, kind of stunned or dazed or maybe he was unconscious, we’re not sure,” the father said.
Ed said he was already on his way to his boat before the plane hit the water.
An officer in a nearby RCMP zodiac boat arrived at the same time as the Halls and the pilot was pulled out within seconds.
While the officer took the slightly-injured pilot to receive care, the Halls attached a tow rope to the plane, attempting to salvage the plane.
“It went poorly,” Fraser Hall explained. “We were slowly pulling it along and we got about maybe 50 feet and the body slipped off the remainder of one of the pontoons and it headed for the bottom.”
Luckily, he said, the rope snapped, or their boat may have been dragged down with it.