Nfld. & Labrador

Fishing guide killed in Labrador crash was terrified of DHC-2 Beaver planes, son says

Dwayne Winsor hated flying on the more than 50-year-old planes. Now his family his is wondering why they were allowed in the first place.

Dwayne Winsor, 47, was among 3 bodies found floating near plane

Dwayne Winsor, 47, was from Triton but lived in Deer Lake. He died after a plane crash at Mistastin Lake in northern Labrador on July 15. (Dwayne C Winsor/Facebook)

Dwayne Winsor hated flying on 50-plus-year-old floatplanes, and sometimes joked about how would die onboard one of them.

Now, in the wake of four fatal de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver crashes in just over a week, his family is asking why he was allowed to fly on them in the first place.

Winsor, 47, has been identified as one of two Newfoundland and Labrador men who died in a Beaver crash at Mistastin Lake in northern Labrador last week.

"He'd joke about it, like, 'I'm going to die on one of those planes.' And then it happened," his son, Curtis Saunders, told CBC News.

Saunders said his father called the planes "old" and "rickety." Indeed, the Beaver was built between 1948 and 1967, but some aviation experts maintain they are still the best planes for flying in and out of remote places.

Winsor was afraid of flying on DHC-2 Beaver aircraft, like the one pictured here, and sometimes joked about them crashing. (Air Saguenay/Facebook)

The family has listened to Air Saguenay president Jean Tremblay say the downed plane was fine, the pilot was experienced and the weather was good.

Saunders questions whether, 52 years after the last Beaver was built, the plane is still the best tool to use for a remote part of northern Labrador that can only be reached by air.

"Even if hypothetically, best-case scenario, the planes are sound, the pilots are experienced, maybe it's just a matter of using the wrong tool," he said. 

"You can keep saying you have a perfect screwdriver, but it means nothing if you actually need to be using a drill."

It's possible he survived the crash and died just waiting.- Curtis Saunders

Two people were killed in central Ontario on July 11 when a Beaver went down in Hawk Junction.

The next day, three people were killed and one was injured in Chibougamau, Que., when a Beaver plane struck some trees while flying too low.

On July 15, an Air Saguenay plane crashed in Mistastin Lake carrying one pilot and six passengers — including Dwayne Winsor. 

The coast guard recovered three bodies from the water the following day, while the search continues for the remaining four men.

It was the fourth Air Saguenay crash since 2010. Three of those crashes were fatal.

On Friday, a fourth Beaver plane crashed on takeoff near Homer, Alaska, killing one and injuring four more.

Did he survive the crash?

Meanwhile, Winsor's family members are left to agonize because of details they still lack.

They know his body was found outside the plane, but they don't know if he died on impact, or managed to swim to the surface.

"It's possible he survived the crash and died just waiting," Saunders said. "That's terrible to think about."

The plane was due back at Three Rivers Lodge near the Quebec border at 6 p.m. on July 15.

The floatplane was headed to the Three Rivers Lodge near the Quebec border when it crashed into Mistastin Lake. (CBC)

The Joint Rescue Command Centre in Halifax — which co-ordinates search and rescue efforts — didn't get a call until 11:30 p.m., saying the plane was overdue.

It didn't get a plane to the area until 5 a.m. Tuesday, at which point the crew noticed three bodies floating in the water near the wreckage.

Winsor's body was sent to St. John's for an autopsy. The family has yet to hear about his cause of death.

Saunders said information has been hard to come by from the beginning.

"It's so slow trickling in to the next of kin, that somehow the media gets ahold of it before we do. When we finally do get some information, it's conflicting with what the media got, and then the RCMP has a different version."

A woodsman through and through

Saunders said his father was a guide for more than 20 years, and had met some influential people through his work.

It didn't matter if you were a child or a former president of the United States — if you cast your line poorly, he'd make you reel it back in, he said.

"I don't think anybody ever had a bad word to say about him, and I know that's a common thing to say when anybody passes away, but really I can't think of a single person that would even say anything bad about him. He was just so friendly."

Winsor, who was from Triton but lived in Deer Lake for most of his adult life, loved being outdoors. Being a guide was a natural career choice.

"The amount of stuff he's done in his life, I might not ever get a chance to even do half of it. He's done a lot, a really full life. But still too short."

A wake was held for Winsor on Sunday. His ashes will be scattered in places that were important to him. 

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

About the Author

Ryan Cooke works for CBC out of its bureau in St. John's.