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B.C. plane crash survivor had to climb hill to get text messages out

Aug. 5, 2008, Port Hardy, B.C. - A man who survived a plane crash that killed five people when it went down near Port Hardy on northern Vancouver Island on Sunday told his family the aircraft burst into flames when it went down.


August 5, 2008
By Administrator

Aug. 5, 2008, Port Hardy, B.C. – A man who survived a plane crash that
killed five people when it went down near Port Hardy on northern
Vancouver Island on Sunday told his family the aircraft burst into
flames when it went down.

Bob Pomponio was one of two people who survived the crash of the Grumman Goose amphibian plane operated by Pacific Coastal Airlines.

His brother-in-law, Martin Young, said Monday that Pomponio suffered soft-tissue injuries in the crash.

Transportation Safety Board spokesman Bill Yearwood said the plane had burned.

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"There was a post-crash fire,'' Yearwood said. "After it collided with the trees, there was a fire – a small fire that erupted into a larger one.''

Police said they believe the plane's engine may be at fault in the crash.

"The plane is believed to have gone down due to a stall,'' said Const. Sarah Beckett with the Port McNeill RCMP.

"We can't confirm that at this time or confirm what caused the stall.''

She said she couldn't comment on exactly where they got the information.

Yearwood said the Transportation Safety Board had no information on what caused the crash, as the board wasn't scheduled to arrive on site until later Monday.

The two survivors are in stable condition. One has a cracked hip while the other has a broken pelvis. Both have bruises and lacerations.

Authorities did not release the names of the victims, saying they were notifying their next of kin.

The survivors were rescued hours after search teams received text messages Pomponio sent to a friend with the whereabouts of the crash site. The friend relayed the information to rescue crews, though it
took them several hours for them to find the site of the crash.

Pomponio told Young he had to climb a hillside to get a signal.

And, Young said, Pomponio wasn't too thrilled with Telus for sending him two advertising text messages while he was trying to get help.

Now, said Yearwood, a safety board team is waiting for a helicopter landing area to be cleared at the crash site so two investigators can get to the site to start their work.

Seaspan International released a statement Sunday confirming that four of its employees died in the plane crash.

"We offer our deepest sympathies to the families and will be working directly with them and the two Seaspan survivors to provide grief and trauma counselling,'' it read.

According to the company's website, Seaspan offers marine transportation and shipdocking services to the Port of Vancouver, Victoria and other ports in B.C.

The amphibious plane left Port Hardy en route to Chamiss Bay just after 7 a.m. Sunday. The airline said they did some initial searching and then reported the plane missing at around 10 a.m.

A Buffalo search plane and a Cormorant helicopter were used in the rescue mission.

Authorities said the plane went down on a hillside dense with foliage, making it difficult to locate the crash site.

In one text message to his friend, Pomponio said he was on a mountain and could see the rescue aircraft but they were unable to find him.

Lt.-Cmdr. Gerry Pash of the Victoria Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre said the survivor's cellphone could be credited for bringing the rescue crews to the crash location.

"It was less efficient than having the plane's electronic transmission locator working but more efficient than not having any information,'' he said.

"This is one of those searches that could have gone on for days had we not had the cellphone's stuff.''