Sioux Lookout, ON (near) Planes Collide, May 1995


Sioux Lookout, Ontario -- Passengers from Sandy Lake and Keewaywin First Nations were among the eight people who died in a mid-air collision between two twin-engine aircraft 15 miles northwest of Sioux Lookout.
JEFF KAKEGAMIC, 23 and KELVIN FIDDLER, 28, both of Sandy Lake, and JOSEPHINE KAKEPETUM, 28, and DEREK CROWE, 19, both of Keewaywin were passengers on the Air Sandy Piper Navaho that collided with a Bearskin Airlines metroliner at around 1:28 p.m., 4,300 feet above sea level.
Air Sandy pilot JAMES BATON, 29, of Red Lake, had just left the Sioux Lookout airport six minutes earlier bound for Red Lake.
Search and rescuers from the Canadian Forces Base Tenton found the burning wreckage of the plane in a heavily forested area two and a half kilometres from where the Bearskin Devil's Elbow, in the southeastern waters of Lac Seul.
"The Piper Navaho was pretty badly destroyed," said CFB Trenton spokesperson Capt. Kevin Crowell, describing what rescuers saw when they parachuted down to the site later that afternoon.
"They found three bodies but they couldn't get to the centre of the plane because it was still on fire. The metal was all hot and twisted. No one could have survived that."
At press time, Ontario Provincial Police divers were still searching for the bodies of the three people who died aboard the Metroliner.
Father JOSEPH CHAVELY, 32, Roman Catholic priest who served parishes in Balmertown, Red Lake and Ear Falls, was the only passenger on the Bearskin flight, which was en route from Red Lake to Sioux Lookout at the time of the crash.
Capt. JEFF FRIESEN, 27, originally of Gilbert Plains, Manitoba and co-pilot SCOTT BOUCHER, 31, originally of Vancouver, BC, also died in the crash.
"It was at about 4 p.m. when we found what we figured was the crash site," Crowell said. "There was an oil slick on the water and some floating debris, and we decided that no one could have made it out of that."
Investigators with the OPPs Northwest Patrol and the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) are investigating the cause of the mid-air collision.
TSB investigator Michel Gaudrea said that the investigating team has already secured tapes of radio transmissions and radar data from the flight service station in Sioux Lookout.
OPP detachment commander, Staff Sgt. Brian Wagner, earlier reported that an emergency radio transmission was sent out from one of the planes at 1:27 p.m. Just minutes before,he added, nothing seemed wrong when the pilot routinely radioed in.
Gaudreau said that the pilots of both planes would have been completely on their own at the time of the crash because they were outside the first nautical mile radious of Sioux Lookout's flight service station and neither were equipped with a radar system.
"It was up to the pilots to maintain visual contact. There was no air traffic controller telling them where to be flying," Gaudrea said. "But they were acting a three-dimensional air space. Depending on where they were, with one climbing, the other descending, and problems with depth perception, they may not have had time to spot each other."
He added, however, that pilots receive constant radio advice on weather conditions and other flights in the vicinity and are used to seeing other aircraft near them.
The pilots are trained to turn right to avoid a collision, he noted. Gaudreau said that investigators are hoping to piece together more of the puzzle when they bring up the submerged metroliner and start examining the other wreckage on land.
He added he is hoping the metroliner's flight data and voice cockpit recorders will be recovered to give them some much needed insight.
But the investigation report probably won't be made public for at least a year.
The news makes people like Sandy Lake chief Eli Sawanas feel helpless knowing that, for most of the year, flying is the only way people living in remote communities like his can travel.
"We're worried about air safety," he said. "Air travel is something we're not able to do without. I guess we're just going to have to accept that these things happen once in a while," he said.
"We're trying to cope with the situation. People in the community are staying with those who have been directly affected by any of the deaths. I think almost everyone has accepted the fact that there are no survivors."

Wawatay News Ontario 1995-05-04