Thursday, January 26, 2012

Piper PA-31-350 Navajo Chieftain, C-GOSU

Brian Shead, with his wife Tracey (right), spoke to the reporters about being the sole survivor of the Jan 10 plane crash of a Piper Navajo at North Spirit Lake.
Four out of five people aboard Keystone Air Flight 213 died in the plane crash earlier this month in North Spirit Lake First Nation, Ont. Four out of five people aboard Keystone Air Flight 213 died in the plane crash earlier this month in North Spirit Lake First Nation, Ont. 
(Transportation Safety Board)
A photo from the Transportation Safety Board shows the wreckage from the plane crash in North Spirit Lake. 

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The sole survivor of a fiery plane crash in northwestern Ontario earlier this month said he tried in vain to unstrap fellow passengers, only managing to pull out the pilot before collapsing in the snow.

Brian Shead, 36, has been in hospital in Winnipeg since the Jan. 10 crash in North Spirit Lake First Nation.

Speaking for the first time since the crash that claimed four lives, Shead told reporters he was reading a book during the flight with no concern about the upcoming landing or the blustery weather.

"It seemed to be a routine landing. In an instant that changed," he said from Winnipeg's Health Sciences Centre.

'I can't reconcile how my life was spared or why.'— Brian Shead

"I relive it every night. Could I have done something different? [There's] a lot of what-ifs, a lot of questions I'm struggling with."

Shead crawled from the burning wreck, suffering a broken nose, foot and ankle.

"But I escaped with my life," he said. "I had some very good friends in that plane. I can't reconcile how my life was spared or why. An event like this changes a person. I won't take life for granted."

The four who died are:

Ben Van Hoek, 62.
Colette Eisinger, 39.
Martha Campbell, 38.
Fariborz Abasabady, the pilot, 41.

All were from Winnipeg except for Van Hoek, who was from Carman.

The plane, an eight-seat Piper PA-31 Navajo operated by Keystone Air, was on its landing approach when it slammed into a frozen lake and caught fire about a kilometre from the runway in the remote community.

"I wish I knew why the horrible incident happened. I do not understand why this crash happened or how it happened and I have no answers," Shead told reporters.

He described being strapped in his seat after the crash and seeing the right wing on fire. He called to his fellow passengers but they were “unconscious and unresponsive to my pleas.”

After trying but failing to unlock their seat-belts, Shead managed to unstrap the pilot and haul him away from the craft. He said he likes to think that no one else was still alive and suffering at that point.

The plane had been chartered by Aboriginal Strategies, a Winnipeg company that provides financial management services to First Nations.

The Transportation Safety Board has not yet revealed the cause of the crash.