Volunteers from Campbell River Search and Rescue arrive at the floatplane crash to remove the bodies of three people.

Plane crash victims identified

Campbell River Search and Rescue dealt with four fatalities in a span of four days last week

A 40-year-old Merville man was among three who died in last Thursday’s plane crash.

Frederick Gerald Cecil Wiley of Merville was a passenger on the floatplane which hit the hillside on West Cracroft Island.

According to the BC Coroner’s Service, Wiley died on impact along with pilot Kevin Williams, 42, of Lake Country, and passenger Norman Slavik, 59, of White Rock.

The two passengers both worked in the forestry industry.

Wiley owned Courtenay-based Cold Stone Logging while Slavik was a forestry consultant.

On the fateful morning of the crash, Williams flew the Air Cab Cessna 185 from its home base at Coal Harbour to Port McNeill to pick up Wiley and Slavik.

Then they proceeded south to a logging operation on West Cracroft where the plane crashed near Potts Lagoon.

Witnesses saw the plane circle the landing area before the crash. Several people were quickly on scene but there was nothing they could do for the men.

The floatplane crashed into fairly dense forest and came to rest vertically.

As a result, volunteers from Campbell River Search and Rescue were called to help remove the bodies.

“These types of calls are sadly becoming more frequent for our group. We have attended numerous plane crashes in the last few years and dealing with the terrain and the logistics of recovering subjects is the hardest part,” said search manager Grant Cromer in a news release.

“This last crash was in a very remote area and required specialized skills to perform a safe recovery.”

At the scene the next morning, the volunteers were confronted with a plane in dense forest and the possibility fuel was still on board, along with other hazards.

“Small aircraft made of aluminium often shred on impact and we are faced with a pile of razor blades to work around,” said Cromer. “Not accounting for the tree hazards and fuel/explosion issues…recoveries from aircraft are one of the most dangerous things we do.”

The plane was in a precarious location and access to the cabin was difficult.

Two volunteers cut away the trees and branch limbs while another pair – a machinist and millwright by trade – were able to determine what parts of the plane to cut off in order to safely access the cabin in order to remove the bodies.

The accident remains under investigation.

It was the fourth fatality that search and rescue volunteers had to deal with four days.

On Oct. 21, members helped remove the body of a logger who died following an accident near Port McNeill.

“No one likes to get the call that we are on the way to recover a deceased subject, but we all do it knowing that those people deserve an opportunity to be brought back so loved ones can find some closure,” Cromer said.

The plane crash remains under investigation by the Transportation Safety Board.

The Cessna was brought to Campbell River to be examined.