By Lindsay Briscoe
The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) have confirmed two people are dead after a plane crash occurred in Bruce Channel between McKenzie Island and Cochenour on the evening of May 30.
The two deceased are 58 year old Brenda Beauchene and 59 year old Jim Beauchene of Phoenix, Arizona. Their bodies were located in the plane wreckage at the bottom of Red Lake by the OPP Underwater Search and Recovery Unit from Gravenhurst, ON, with the assistance of the Red Lake OPP, around 6 p.m. on June 1.
The float plane – a Beech 18 – was taking off from the water heading to a tourist camp north of Red Lake. The plane took off just before 5:30 p.m. and was subsequently observed to crash in the channel, approximately 200 metres from shore. Peter Hildebrand of the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) says the plane likely reached somewhere between 10 and 40 feet.
McKenzie Island resident Rikki O’Donnell lives right near the flight path of floatplanes that land and take off from Bruce Channel and was home the day of the accident.
“I heard what sounded like an airplane either taking off or landing – you can’t really tell the difference – and then I heard it stall out and then I just ducked,” she says. “I was inside. So I crawled outside to make sure it wasn’t going to hit my house. I made it to the deck and then I seen a plane in the water and just ran as fast as I could to my boat. By the time I got to my boat, my neighbours were already out there but the plane was gone. It took, like, 30 seconds to sink – not even a minute.”
When O’Donnell arrived at the scene where the plane went down, there were already a few pedestrian boats there.
“My neighbour yelled to me: ‘The guy never come up! The guy never come up! Go phone 9-11!’ So I just bolted back to the house to phone 9-11.”
Hildrebrand says two TSB investigators are still in the area interviewing witnesses and trying to establish where the take-off route started. The TSB has also been in touch with the insurance company and the salvage company which will be sending a different set of divers this week to assist with the recovery of the aircraft.
At this stage, Hildebrand says the TSB is not talking about the cause of the crash.
“We’re going to wait until we have a look at the aircraft and amalgamate the reports that we have from the various witnesses,” he says.