Nfld. & Labrador

No sign of 4 missing men, floatplane that crashed into Labrador lake

RCMP believe bad weather caused the plane to sink before investigators could get to the scene.

RCMP believe bad weather caused plane to sink

The de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver seaplane is seen on the Air Saguenay website. (Air Saguenay)

The RCMP say there is no sign of the four missing men or the fuselage of the floatplane that crashed into Lake Mistastin last week. 

"While the plane was visible from the air early last week, it is believed that high winds and heavy rains contributed to the plane sinking prior to the RCMP expert divers and investigators getting in to the scene with the required equipment for comprehensive searching," reads a media release from police on Monday afternoon. 

"Objects of interest in the lake" have been identified via sonar and will be investigated, the statement says. Police say they can't speculate about what those objects might be.

A remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) is also on site and is part of the search efforts, according to RCMP. 

Four Americans, two men from Newfoundland and Labrador and one Quebecer are dead or missing after a plane — a de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver — crashed into a remote lake in northern Labrador.

The Canadian Coast Guard recovered three bodies from the water the following day, while the search continues for the remaining four men.

Mistastin Lake is about 100 kilometres west of the Innu community of Natuashish on Labrador's northern coast.

The RCMP say the lake is about 16 kilometres long, and locals familiar with it have said it could be up to a few hundred metres deep.

Divers and other search personnel were delayed arriving to the crash site, after bad weather grounded their flights on July 18. It wasn't until the following day when crews were finally able to get to Mistastin Lake.

Even before crews arrived on the scene, the RCMP talked about the multiple challenges they were anticipating. 

"The logistics of getting the equipment in and landing in particular places out there, trying to find a safe spot to be able to land, whether on the land or the water," said Cpl. Jolene Garland. 

"Communication is certainly an issue down in that area. There is no cellular service  you'd be using satellite phones at best."

Different opinions on Beaver plane

The family of Dwayne Winsor, one of the two Newfoundlanders on the plane, said he hated flying on 50-plus-year-old floatplanes.

His son, Curtis Saunders, told CBC News that his father called the planes "old" and "rickety." The entire fleet of Beaver planes 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.

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

Last week, Gilles Lapierre, past president of Aviateurs Québec, an association of Quebec pilots, weighed in calling the Beaver floatplane "a Jeep by comparison."

"Even if it's 50 years old or more, there is no modern plane that can compare to the Beaver, and that's why it's still very popular among outfitters, seaplane operators and companies whose business is to fly people in the bush."

Lapierre said it's not an aircraft that's "built for flight in the clouds."

"Sometimes when flying it in changing weather, you can inadvertently find yourself in conditions where you lose visibility.… You try to get out of that situation because the craft isn't equipped for instrument flight," he said.

4 crashes in 1 week

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, the same type of aircraft crashed in Mistastin Lake carrying one pilot and six passengers. It marked the fourth Air Saguenay crash since 2010. Three of those crashes were fatal.

On Friday, July 19, a fourth Beaver plane crashed on takeoff near Homer, Alaska, killing one and injuring four more.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador