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A Plane Crash - A Pilot's Perspective

On July 27, 2023, a single engine plane piloted by Bryce Olson went down in the forest near Pinawa, Manitoba.

Two SAR Techs, Sergeant C. Benoit and Master Corporal Gab Pintal-Godin, from 435 Transport and Rescue Squadron rescued Mr. Olson later that morning.

Mr. Olson sent The Voxair an email on August 24 recounting the crash and rescue in his own words. Here is a slightly edited version:

“My name is Bryce Olson and I am the pilot who crashed northeast of Silver Falls a few weeks ago. I am originally from Minnesota but now live in Fort Smith Northwest Territories. I am an instructor in the Environment and Natural Resource Technology Program at Aurora College in Fort Smith.

“I was visiting my family in Minnesota and on my way back to the Northwest Territories when the accident happened. The airplane is a Sportsman, which is based on a Piper PA-14. I built the plane, which I finished in 2020, and used it for travel and recreation, mostly on floats in the summer and skis in the winter. I was on floats at the time of the accident.

“I departed Rainy Lake in northwest Ontario that morning after visiting a friend, with intentions of stopping on Lake Winnipeg to refuel and take a break. The flight was completely normal when suddenly I hit moderate turbulence followed by feeling and hearing something break. The airplane immediately pitched down and to the right. I corrected for the upset in altitude, however the airplane was very unstable and entered a spin to the left. I instinctively applied corrections for the spin, a testament to the importance of training. I partially recovered from the spin just before impact. I made a mayday call during the spin but was unsure if anyone heard.

“The ELT was on but I am aware of the delays as they confirm the status of the aircraft. Therefore, after impact, I grabbed my handheld radio which I keep as backup, and exited the plane. I was in a lot of back and chest pain with difficulty breathing more than shallow breaths. I also had a tingling feeling in my legs and left arm so I attempted to stay in the most comfortable position with little movement as I knew I may have a spinal injury. I began making radio calls and eventually a local pilot heard me. I gave my approximate location but had difficulties hearing a confirmation. From what I heard, the pilot was low on fuel but relayed the info to another pilot in the area who began searching for me (I haven't confirmed this).

“I eventually saw a plane and heard him make a radio call about searching for a plane. I contacted him and directed him to me. He immediately relayed my location to begin the rescue operation. Also during this time, I was using an InReach satellite communicator to message my partner of the situation as she was flight tracking me and would have noticed my flight track stop. It was relieving knowing help was on the way. It also meant I did not have to retrieve my medical/survival kit from the plane and risk further injury.

“At this point, I think you have a more detailed sequence of events from Sgt Cbenoit. I will say my experience with Sgt Cbenoit and MCpl Pintal-Godin was incredible. They were very professional and kept my spirits up in a time of incredible stress all while giving me the medical aid I needed as well as orchestrating my extraction. It is overwhelming to know they, along with the other crew, risk and dedicate their lives to helping those in need. I will never forget this experience and would never be able to thank those involved enough to show my appreciation.

“Both Sgt Cbenoit and MCpl Pintal-Godin came to visit me at the hospital which shows it’s more than a job to them. They truly care. I hope to visit Winnipeg again soon to meet the entire crew involved with my rescue and thank them in person.

“I spent a week at HSC Winnipeg where I found out I had a broken back (crushed T8 vertebrae), a broken sternum, and other minor cuts/scrapes/bruises. I have to spend at least 12 weeks with a back brace but should avoid surgery if everything heals in place. I am incredibly lucky to not only have survived the crash, but should fully recover if all goes well. I am in minimal pain and very mobile. So, I can't complain.

“I am now in Edmonton as we are evacuated due to the wildfires up north. Our home is currently still standing but at very high risk as the fire is only 2km away. Needless to say, we have had quite the last few weeks but we are together, healthy, and thankful for the overwhelming care and generosity of so many people.

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