A man who rescued the pilot after Sunday's six-death crash of a seaplane off B.C.'s Saturna Island says the pilot cried out in despair, "I've killed them all."

A woman and her six-month-old baby were among those killed when the Seair de Havilland Beaver crashed in Lyall Harbour just after taking off about 4:10 p.m. PT

The first to arrive on the scene was James White, who saw the pilot and a woman who was screaming, 'Help me, help me.'

After White got them out of the water, he asked the pilot how many had been aboard and the pilot said he had a full load, adding, 'I've killed them all.'

Update

Read the CBC News report into the inquiry and the Transportation Board findings in our story from  March 17, 2011.

The victims include 41-year-old Dr. Kerry Margaret Morrissey of Vancouver — also known as Kerry Telford — and her baby Sarah.

Morrissey's sister-in-law Sharon Morrissey describes her as a cool person who helped women get medical care in places like South America.

The others killed were: Catherine White-Holman, 55, of Vancouver; Thomas Gordon Glenn, 60, of White Rock, B.C.; and Cindy Schafer, 44, and Richard Bruce Haskett, 49, both of Huntington Beach, Calif.

It's not known what caused the crash, but the Transportation Safety Board of Canada is hoping the pilot, who is now in hospital, will be able to tell investigators what went wrong. The names of the pilot and the surviving passenger were not immediately released.

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Patrick Morrissey, left, with his wife, Dr. Kerry Telford Morrissey, and their daughter Sarah. The mother and daughter died in Sunday's crash. Patrick Morrissey was not on board the airplane. ((South Community Birth Program))

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Richard Bruce Haskett, 49, and Cindy Schafer, 44, of Huntington Beach, Calif., also died in the crash. ((Facebook))

Seair voluntarily suspended operations Monday out of respect for the victims and their families, an airline spokesman said.

The victims' remains were found in the submerged plane, which divers located 13 metres below the surface of the water, said Troy Haddock, maritime co-ordinator for the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Victoria.

'As I looked out, I saw [the plane] nosediving into the water.'  —Michael Vautour, eyewitness

Haddock said divers searched for eight hours before they found the wreckage.

"The reports that we have are the doors were open, there was some twisted wreckage, but that's all the details we have now," Haddock said

Transportation Safety Board investigator Bill Yearwood said later Monday it did not appear the plane was overloaded when it took off. Investigators will be looking at the distribution of the weight, however, once the craft is lifted from the water Tuesday, he said.

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The de Havilland Beaver, like this one operated by Seair Seaplanes, has a reputation as a reliable aircraft, suitable for flying in remote and difficult conditions. ((Seair Seaplanes))

Community in mourning

Residents of Saturna Island, in the Strait of Georgia about 50 kilometres south of Vancouver, began gathering Monday morning at the community hall for an update on the accident and to share their grief.

Seair president Peter Clarke issued a short statement saying his company is co-operating with the investigation and it will be up to the safety board to provide more details.

"Our primary concern right now is for the passengers, their family and [the] pilot on board the flight and our employees," Clarke said.

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The seaplane crashed in Saturna Island's Lyall Harbour, off the southeast coast of Vancouver Island, on Sunday afternoon. ((CBC))

Unconfirmed reports indicate the flight came from Pender Island and had stopped to pick up passengers at Saturna Island on its way to Vancouver.

'A bit of a flash'

BC Ferries employee Michael Vautour said he saw the crash from his office on the harbour.

"I noticed a bit of a flash, and that's what made me look out the window. And as I looked out, I saw [the plane] nosediving into the water," he said.

'We were sitting next to them in the pub and just talking to them, just minutes before.'  —Allen Olson, Saturna Island resident

"The tail stayed up for four or five minutes and, during that time, a couple of locals ran down to our government dock, boarded their boats and zoomed out to see if they could help anyone, and by the time they got there, the tail had gone under water," Vautour said.

Allen Olson told CBC News he was in a nearby pub earlier that afternoon, watching the Grey Cup game with some of the people who later boarded the plane. Minutes after the people left to go catch their flight, someone ran into the pub saying the plane had crashed.

Olson and several other pub patrons jumped in several boats and headed to the crash site. When Olson arrived at the scene, two boats were already there with some of the other people from the pub who were trying to help the pilot and a female passenger.

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Search and rescue teams return from the crash site Sunday night. ((CBC))

The other six passengers went down with the plane.

"We were sitting next to them in the pub and just talking to them, just minutes before," Olson said. "The next thing you know, you are out there looking for them in the water, and there is nothing to be seen, nothing, not a trace.

Last year, there were two fatal seaplane crashes off B.C.'s coast. In August 2008, five people died when a Pacific Coastal Airlines Grumman Goose crashed on Vancouver Island.

In November 2008, one man survived a crash that killed seven others on Thormanby Island, between the mainland and northern Vancouver Island.

Corrections

  • STORY UPDATE: Our story of the inquiry into the crash, and links to the report's findings, were published be CBC News on March 17, 2011.
    Oct 21, 2013 10:11 PM PT
With files from The Canadian Press