Bathroom break strands 71-year-old pilot, named Happy, on Pickerel Lake
A pilot who went missing Saturday night was found safe Monday afternoon and says the only reason he survived was because he didn’t panic.
Happy Bednarek, 71, from Ashern, was reported overdue at a Sisib Lake camp, south of Grand Rapids, on Jan. 13.
“The pilot advised he landed safely on Pickerel Lake but when he tried to start his plane to leave he encountered mechanical issues which left him stranded,” RCMP stated in a media release.
RCMP said a Hercules search plane was sent from Trenton, Ont. to search the area, where a small fire was seen from above.
Bednarek told Global News Thursday that the trouble started when he landed at Pickerel Lake to refuel.
“I went over there, landed, and shut the airplane down,” he said. “I went to the bathroom, and put some gas in the airplane.
“I did that, and when I went to start it, it wouldn’t start. It had cooled off too much.
“I cranked it for an hour and a half and realized it wasn’t going to go, so I loaded the little gear I had on an engine tent and I dragged it to shore and built a fire.”
Bednarek said he kept himself occupied getting wood for his fire – out of necessity, to avoid frostbite and hypothermia.
Canadian Armed Forces Search and Rescue Technicians were initially unable to parachute to the fire because of poor weather conditions.
RCMP said they then began a 45 kilometer snowmobile patrol to investigate the fire and locate Bednarek.
The weather cleared as RCMP were snowmobiling in, which allowed rescuers to parachute to Pickerel Lake.
They located Bednarek who was in “good spirits”, but suffering from dehydration.
He was given medical treatment on scene before leaving the site via helicopter at 4:30 p.m.
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