NORTH HATLEY, Que. — Montreal Canadiens owner Geoff Molson helped rescue the pilot of a small seaplane that crashed into the waters of Lake Massawippi in North Hatley, Que., on Saturday morning.
The Sûreté du Québec (SQ) says the accident happened around 11 a.m.
A pilot in his 60s was flying his plane over the southern edge of the lake, near the town’s centre, when he ran into difficulty. With dozens of witnesses watching, the low-flying aircraft plunged into the lake, which at its deepest runs almost 400 feet.
“I was going to get gas and on my way to get the gas, I saw this plane that came over the mountain, and I did not realize it was going to land in the lake,” said Molson. “All of a sudden a few seconds after we saw it go over our heads, people in North Hatley were waving at me, telling me someone crashed.”
The SQ says the pilot crashed his plane into the lake and was approached by someone in a pleasure craft. They say he was alone in his plane.
“We don’t comment on the identify of anyone involved,” said SQ spokesperson Beatrice Dorsainville. “A 60-something man was alone in the lake, and he was approached by an individual in a pleasure craft. There were people involved who helped save the pilot. He was very lucky he wasn’t more seriously injured. He was also lucky there was a boater there to help him.”
Molson says he got to the man within seconds of his plane crashing. The man was floating in the lake, holding onto his pilot seat, with blood forming in a pool all around him, as his plane quickly disappeared into the dark waters below.
“He was bleeding all over. He told me he did not have any broken bones. I brought him into my boat, he had cuts all over his face, his back, his knees,” said Molson. “One of the first questions I asked him was if someone else was in the plane with him.”
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The pilot told the Habs owner he had been flying alone.
“I talked to him. I asked him if he wanted me to call his wife but he said, ‘I can’t remember her phone number,'” Molson said.
“He was a little bit disoriented. I brought him in my boat with my son. We took him to shore where a first responder was waiting.”
The SQ says the work of locals on the lake helped save the pilot’s life.
“He was very, very lucky,” said Dorsainville. “The pleasure craft boaters helped save him.”
Molson says the man was able to get himself off his boat and onto the dock, in the arms of a first responder.
“It was shocking, but it was almost a relief, and I was really happy to see he was alive. I was just happy to be there at the right time,” Molson said.
“The result could have been catastrophic if it had happened in the core of the village for example,” said Michael Page, North Hatley mayor. “The quick reaction of citizens and other bystanders to go and rescue the pilot was certainty helpful and heroic.”
Molson however says he doesn’t want to be considered a hero; rather, he says he reacted in a way any boat operator would.
“I think anyone would have done what I did,” Molson said.
The SQ says the man is recovering, and did not suffer serious injuries.
Canada’s Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the accident.
Canada’s federal environment department was informed of the accident because of possible contaminants in the lake due to the crash.