Grand Manan air ambulance service restored after fatal crash

The air ambulance service on Grand Manan, N.B., is back, just days after a crash killed two people and left two others injured, the mayor says.

'Business as usual' for Atlantic Charters, says Mayor Dennis Greene

The air ambulance service on Grand Manan, N.B., is back, just days after a crash killed two people and left two others injured, the mayor says.

"It's business as usual" for Atlantic Charters, Dennis Greene told CBC News on Monday.

Atlantic Charters is back in business, providing air ambulance service to Grand Manan, N.B. (CBC)
A twin-engine Piper PA31 belonging to the company crashed on its way back from Saint John at about 5 a.m. Saturday, just metres from the runway at the Grand Manan Airport.

Pilot and company owner Klaus Sonnenberg, of Grand Manan, and island paramedic William Mallock died.

Another pilot remains in hospital in stable condition, while a registered nurse who was on board was released from hospital on Sunday, according to Horizon Health Network officials.

"If Klaus was around, he would be saying, 'What the hell are you doing taking a day off?'" said the mayor, who, like many people in the small community, knew Sonnenberg well.

Greene says it's difficult to explain how important the contracted air ambulance service is to the island.

"There [are] so many people walking the roads on Grand Manan, [who] are out working, that if it hadn’t been for Atlantic Charters and their Air Medevac, those people wouldn’t be around today," he said.

Mayor Dennis Greene of Grand Manan, N.B., says the air ambulance service is important to the small community. (CBC)
The provincial government has also made arrangements to have an aircraft from Quebec on standby on the island, said Greene.

"We are covered, one way or the other," if any medical emergencies arise, he said.

"The premier, Mr. [David] Alward, he understands how important that is to us, and also the minister of health."

Ambulance New Brunswick supports the decision by Atlantic Charters to resume operations,  interim president Paul Ward said in a statement.

"We had been making alternative transportation arrangements for the island in collaboration with the Department of Health, but I know Atlantic Charters was anxious to resume its operations," Ward said.

ANB "remains at the ready to do anything and everything we can to assist Atlantic Charters as well as our paramedics and the people of Grand Manan in general," he said.

Additional land ambulance crews have been brought in to provide extra support to the island, Ward said. ANB's primary air ambulance, AirCare, which serves the entire province is also available to help, he said.

GPS system likely to be examined

The investigation into the weekend accident continues, said Michael Cunningham, Atlantic regional manager for aviation investigations with the Transportation Safety Board (TSB).

He expects an interim factual report will be ready within 60 to 90 days, but a full report could take up to a year to complete.

Investigators have determined the plane unsuccessfully attempted to land once, then circled back to make a second attempt, Cunningham said.

One of the pilots reported the failed attempt over the radio and local residents also heard the plane circling the runway, he said.

Evidence at the scene also indicates all three of the plane's wheels touched down on Bancroft Road, which runs perpendicular to the runway and is located several hundred metres from the tarmac, Cunningham said. There are three distinct rubber patches on the road, he said.

Components of the plane will be shipped to an engineering laboratory in Ottawa for analysis.

TSB wants to determine whether the plane's GPS system was working correctly, Cunningham said.

Sonnenberg and Mallock were both seated on the left side of the aircraft when it crashed, he said.

Here are the funeral and visitation arrangements for the two who died:

  • Visitation for Mallock will be held on Tuesday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., and from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Seal Cove Baptist Church. The funeral will be Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. at the Grand Manan Community School.
  • Visitation for Sonnenberg will be held on Friday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and from 6 pm. to 9 pm. at St. Paul's Anglican Church. The funeral will be Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Grand Manan Community School.