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Pilot recounts harrowing tale of survival after flip
Pilot and passenger spend night on barren land after plane flips on takeoff on remote lake near Nunavut border

John McFadden
Northern News Services
Monday, July 24, 2017

Dave Olesen is an experienced pilot and has many years of adventures out on the land. He had to put his skills to the test on July 18 and 19 when a float plane he was piloting capsized on takeoff on a remote lake near the NWT-Nunavut border.

NNSL photograph

Stefan Goodman, left, and Dave Olesen wait to be rescued on July 19 on the shore of a remote lake near the NWT-Nunavut border. Olesen's float plane, in the water behind them, had flipped over the day before in high winds on takeoff. The tent, camp stove and food had been dropped to them by a RCAF Hercules after they were located from the air. - photo courtesy of RCAF Sgt. Darcy Keating

Olesen was in the plane with GNWT water survey technician Stefan Goodman.

Olesen's plane - a Bush Hawk - was at the mouth of the Dubawnt River, just west of Dubawnt Lake, about 600 kilometres east of Yellowknife when the mishap occurred.

Olesen stated in an e-mail to News/North on July 20 that after the technician took his water samples he prepared for takeoff.

He noted winds were gusting to about 55 kilometres an hour and squalls were in the area. He added however they were in a sheltered area at the time.

As they began the takeoff on rough water, a gust of wind hit and the plane completely flipped over in the water, according to Olesen.

"My passenger and I remained calm in the cabin ... as we hung upside down in our seats and shoulder harnesses. We located life jackets, turned on the emergency locator transmitter and tried to grab important communication devices," stated Olesen. "I opened my pilot side door and we both exited the plane."

Olesen stated the passenger had some difficulty freeing himself and while Olesen was helping him a satellite phone was lost.

"Once out of the plane and into the 12C water, we donned life jackets and climbed up onto the floats. The airplane settled deeper but the floats remained high above the water," stated Olesen.

"We each straddled a float and for about the next 80 or 100 minutes we drifted very slowly downwind. We took turns paddling ... to keep warm."

Olesen stated after about an hour-and-a-half the plane drifted into shallower water and came to rest on the bottom. They were still some 150 to 200 metres from land, stated Olesen.

"We made a final attempt to retrieve useful items from the interior of the plane with limited success since we were immersed in the cold water and were in an advanced hypothermic state."

The satellite phone wasn't found, stated Olesen.

"We succeeded in making it to shore towing our bundled gear with us. We made it through the night, wet and cold but with some food, a fire and a lean-to tarp," stated Olesen.

"At about four this next morning, a search and rescue Hercules was overhead. They dropped us a radio first with which we could talk to them, then a couple of big bundles of clothing, a tent, sleeping gear, stove, fuel and food.

"Then they circled higher to pass the message along that we were OK. Then they dropped down again and two search and rescue technicians parachuted down and joined us at the site."

The Royal Canadian Air Force Hercules had been dispatched from Winnipeg after RCMP had connected with the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre at the Canadian Forces Base in Trenton, Ont., according to a news release from the Mounties.

Olesen stated he and Goodman were physically assessed by the SAR technicians and deemed to be okay.

Eventually a helicopter dispatched from the Kelvin drill camp north of the Hoarfrost River at the east end of Great Slave Lake arrived and about an hour later a Summit Air Twin Otter from Yellowknife landed nearby, stated Olesen.

"Gear and people were shuttled by helicopter to an area where the Twin Otter on floats could come to shore safely, stated Olesen.

He concluded the e-mail by stating he was back home at his base on the Hoarfrost River on the East Arm of Great Slave Lake while Goodman is in Yellowknife.

The plane remains where they left it.

Transport Canada is investigating the incident.

The dramatic rescue last week was one of two in the NWT - just hours apart

On July 18, according to an RCMP news release, Mounties in Yellowknife received a request for assistance from the Department of National Defence in Trenton, Ont. after a float plane had initiated its emergency beacon about 35 kilometres south of Lutsel K'e.

"RCMP chartered a helicopter out of Yellowknife and dispatched to the GPS co-ordinates with two RCMP members on board," stated the release.

"RCMP members located the aircraft upside down in the water and the lone pilot who appeared to have minor injuries. The pilot was flown back to Yellowknife."

No further details have been provided on that incident.

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