Hamilton

Stuffed bunny found on Burlington, Ont., rooftop after sky-high fall from WWII bomber

The owner of a stuffed rabbit that was sucked out of a vintage plane while it was flying over Burlington, Ont., thought it might take a miracle to find the missing toy. But the missing bunny and its owner will soon be reunited thanks to a pair of HVAC workers and bit of luck.

Good-luck charm was found on rooftop of long-term care home

Kevin Vanderwal, left, and Rob Pearce from Moore Environmental found the stuffed bunny on the roof of CAMA Woodlands Long-Term Care Home. (Lost and Found - Hamilton/Facebook)

Victoria Maginnis thought it might take a miracle to find a stuffed toy that held sentimental value for her family after it was sucked out of a Second World War bomber during a flight over Burlington, Ont.

But the missing plush bunny and its owner will soon be reunited thanks to a pair of HVAC workers and bit of luck.

"Bunny" disappeared two weeks ago when it tumbled from the gun port of Hamilton's vintage Lancaster bomber.

The rabbit was the focus of a weeks-long search by volunteers in the area, after the disappearance was posted to Facebook and covered extensively in the media.

Maginnis said she had "zero" hope the good luck charm would be found.

The Maginnis family's sentimental, stuffed bunny was in the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum's Lancaster when the plane turned, sending Bunny out into the sky. (Jim Maginnis)

It turns out Bunny found a soft landing after all — plopping down on top of the CAMA Woodlands Long-Term Care Home. There it sat until Kevin Vanderwal and Rob Pearce, two HVAC technicians with Moore Environmental Systems, climbed up on the roof during a service call Monday morning.

"The bunny was sitting right there on the ductwork," said Vanderwal, adding his colleague instantly recognized it as the missing toy.

"It sitting upright, almost looking at us. It was kinda creepy," he added with a laugh.

Maginnis announced the good news Monday in an update to her post on the Hamilton Lost and Found Facebook group. 

"Bunny was found today on the roof of CAMA Woodlands [Long Term Care Home] on Panin Road, by two wonderful HVAC guys Kevin and Rob! Unbelievable," she wrote.

"Thanks to this original post and everyone who shared this, Bunny's coming home (and staying on the ground!)"

Vanderwal said the discovery was a case of being in the right place at the right time — and some good aim on Bunny's part.

The home is surrounded by bush, he explained, meaning the toy could have easily landed in a tree.

"The odds of finding that there were just like a million to one," he said. "It was crazy."

Vanderwal and Pearce took this photo of Bunny's landing spot after they found it on the roof. (Lost and Found - Hamilton/Facebook)

The location it was found is actually almost exactly over a spot on the map Jim Maginnis, Victoria's father, marked as the likely place it fell from the plane.

In a separate post, the care home also announced the good news about "The Lancaster Bunny," saying two technicians had found it on the roof and handed it over to CAMA staff.

Maginnis, who lives in Toronto, was unable to immediately make the trek to Hamilton, so the reunion is scheduled to take place at CAMA on Nov. 30. It will be kept inside the building — not outside on the roof — until then. 

Vanderwal said he hasn't had a chance to speak with the family, but he's just happy to have played a small part in Bunny's return.

"This is a great story to be part of. So we just wanted to make sure it got back."

There, gone and back again

The plush toy's trip began on Nov. 9, when Victoria boarded the plane with her father, a 58-year-old squadron leader in the Royal Air Force.

She had arranged for them to go up in the plane through the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum, which owns one of the only two of the Avro Lancasters still flying in the world.

Her father, an ardent and long-time Lancaster enthusiast, jumped at the opportunity.

They were joined by the toy bunny, which Victoria brought aboard to surprise her father. It wasn't the first time she'd done so — she snuck Bunny into his navigation bag in 2009 when he left to serve a tour in Afghanistan. 

Jim Maginnis put his navigation skills to work by plotting times consistent with pictures taken by his iPhone. The purple circle is where the plane was the last time he saw Bunny. And the yellow circle is after the toy made its escape. (Victoria Maginnis)

The stuffed animal had an emotional resonance for Jim Maginnis. It was practically a member of the family and had been with his daughter for 25 years, including moments like her first day of school, family vacations, and her move to Toronto.

He previously told CBC he was surprised to discover it when he opened his pack in Afghanistan.

"I was tired, I was miserable, I was fed up," he said. "And there [Bunny] was, just sitting in the middle of Kandahar, looking up at me." 

During the Lancaster flight, Jim spotted the main upper gunner turret —a glass dome at the top of the plane about halfway back — and thought it would be a perfect photo opportunity for Bunny.

The Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum's Avro Lancaster bomber. Based out of Hamilton, Ont., it is one of only two Lancasters in the world still flying. (Submitted/CWHM)

He balanced the stuffed animal between the guns and took a picture — and then she was gone.

"I hadn't realized the fact that it was an unpressurized aircraft and there's open gun-ports, where the guns would have traversed up and down," he said. "The pilot put the aircraft into a turn, the slipstream changed, and there was sort of a pop, and Bun' had gone." 

Victoria Maginnis snuck the family's good luck charm into her dad's bag when he was dispatched to Afghanistan. (Jim Maginnis)

About the Author

Justin Mowat

Reporter/Editor

Justin Mowat is a journalist and a filmmaker. Reach him at: justin.mowat@cbc.ca

with files from Dan Taekema and Christine Rankin

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