When a McLeanarea farmer saw the downed aircraft and two men walking down a grid road, he did what anyone would do in neighbourly Saskatchewan. He stopped to lend a hand.
It was some time later, when he heard about the small plane's illicit cargo, that he began to have second thoughts.
"It's rural Saskatchewan. Everybody helps everybody," said the farmer, who asked not be identified. "You start asking yourself questions now."
The farmer said he wouldn't hesitate to stop and help someone in need again, but he might start with a call on his cellphone to authorities.
On Wednesday, RCMP revealed that the single-engine Piper Cherokee, which made an emergency landing on July 29, is believed to have carried 83 pounds of marijuana, neatly packed into three brand new suitcases.
A 27-year-old West Kelowna, B.C., man, accused of being a passenger in the plane, appeared Wednesday in Regina Provincial Court on charges of possession for the purpose of trafficking and two counts of breaching court orders from B.C., where he also faces a drug charge. Roy Van Nicholson is to return to court Jan. 23.
With the consent of the Crown, he was released on conditions that included maintaining his West Kelowna residence, reporting weekly to police and consenting to searches by police up to three times a month.
Indian Head RCMP Cpl. Devin Pugh said it's believed the plane, coming from the north and heading south, attempted to land on a gravel road about 10 kilometres northeast of McLean.
"It bounced off the road into a ditch, through the ditch, and he actually hit a fence post with one of his wings. He kind of bounced in the field a little ways and came to a stop," Pugh said.
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is responsible for investigating the cause of the crash, but it's suspected the plane may have run out of fuel.
The farmer was travelling down a main grid road when he came upon the plane with the broken front wheel and damaged propeller around 4: 30 p.m. that day. He saw two well-dressed men toting travel bags come out of a yard about a half a kilometre away and correctly assumed they had been on the plane. The men were shaken but otherwise unhurt.
"They didn't know where they really were. They thought they were close to Moose Jaw," he recalled. "I said, 'You're 30 miles out of Regina.'"
They wanted a ride to the city, but the farmer could take them only as far as Qu'Appelle. Chatting during the drive, the farmer asked the men, who said they were from Medicine Hat, if they had come to Saskatchewan for the Rider game that weekend. They quickly admitted the game had indeed brought them out this way.
But they also said they were just out for an afternoon ride. The farmer had his doubts.
In Qu'Appelle, the farmer got them a map to show where they had left their plane because they were uncertain of the location. He also telephoned RCMP about the crash and handed the phone to the pilot. In Qu'Appelle, the men bumped into another Good Samaritan, who agreed to give them a lift to the city.
At the time investigators located the plane, its occupants were not identified. RCMP believe they had left the area for B.C.
"That's what kind of keyed our interest. Obviously if somebody crashes, or forcelands a plane, it was kind of interesting to us that they didn't stick around," Pugh said.
While investigating the crash site, officers followed a trail in the tall grass leading into the bushes, on the edge of a field a short distance from the plane, and discovered three large suitcases.
Pugh said the plane originally came from Kelowna but was unsure of its destination. No flight plan had been registered.
The pilot of the plane escaped the emergency landing unharmed. However, he has since died in an incident unrelated to the crash. Foul play is not suspected.
The investigation involved Indian Head RCMP, Mission RCMP in B.C., and the Regina integrated drug unit.