Note: Updates to this story are being listed below. Scroll to the bottom for the latest on this developing story.
NAKUSP, B.C. – One person is dead and another has been injured after a small float plane crashed into the Upper Arrow Lake in front of Nakusp this morning.
PHOTO: A quick response from Nakusp first responders meant the pilot of the float plane that crashed near Nakusp on Aug 24. (pictured wrapped in a red blanket in this breaking news photo) survived the plunge into the cold lake with only minor injuries. Unfortunately, his passenger died in the crash.
Nakusp resident Ray Lythgoe was taking a stroll along the Nakusp waterfront shortly after 8 a.m. He heard a plane engine sputter and die, and looked up to see the descending plane.
“I heard the motor go dead,” Lythgoe said, “then a big splash.” Conditions were sunny and calm at the time.
Lythgoe says he ran to the nearest phone and called 911. He was one of many who witnessed the crash and called it in.
Arrow Lakes Search and Rescue and the Nakusp Volunteer Fire Department were dispatched, speeding on small boats towards the downed plane, which was floating about 500 to 600 metres offshore from the Nakusp Marina.
Shortly afterward, rescuers on a small boat returned to the marina carrying the pilot of the plane. The man sat upright, bundled in a blanket. He was treated and transported to the nearby Arrow Lakes Hospital by ambulance.
RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Annie Linteau now confirms there were two people on the plane. The passenger is deceased.
Recovery operations are ongoing, and RCMP and search & rescue divers are scheduled to attend the scene shortly.
The crashed plane has been lashed to a barge to prevent it from sinking, and it is currently being moved back towards the marina.
Linteau said there is no indication as to what caused the crash, but she confirmed the plane was attempting a landing when things went wrong.
It was a clear, sunny morning and the lake was glassy.
RCMP are not releasing the names of those involved until family members have been notified.
This story will be updated throughout the day as details become available. Check back to www.arrowlakesnew.com for more.
UPDATE: 2:30 p.m.
An RCMP diver arrived on scene at about 11:15 a.m. to survey the scene. A search & rescue dive team is en route to Nakusp from Nelson.
Also, the pilot appeared to be in relatively good condition despite the crash. He was able to walk to the ambulance and was alert.
PHOTO: NAKUSP Fire Chief Terry Warren, RCMP Cst. Mark Macaulay, and Arrow Lakes Search & Rescue members Stephanie Stenseth and Brad Gibson watch from the Nakusp marina as their fellow rescuers work on the downed float plane.
UPDATE: Aug. 24, 4:30 p.m.
The pilot has now been identified as a 79-year-old Nelson resident who has 40 years of flying experience and regularly lands on mountain lakes. He had departed from Nelson that morning and was on his way to a remote lake near the B.C.-Alberta border when the incident happened.
The Arrow Lakes News spoke to the pilot after he returned to the shore to monitor the recovery effort. He didn’t want to use his name because next of kin of his deceased passenger hadn’t yet been notified. The pilot suffered only very minor scratches.
He said that the crash was due to a perception issue created when landing on extremely smooth water. With the sun reflecting off the mirror-like surface, it can be very hard to perceive your altitude.
“I knew the problem with glassy water,” he said. “You can’t see how far you are from the water.”
In mountain lakes, he usually lands closer to the shore, using the shoreline as his guide. Today, the glassy water fooled him. He was out further than he thought when the plane hit the surface of the lake.
“It bounced and next time it hit, it flipped over,” he said, “and that was it.”
He was flying with an as-yet unidentified adult male friend for a day of fishing and relaxation on the lake when his partner told him he didn’t have a fishing license.
“You gotta have a fishing license I told him.” They made the decision to land at Nakusp to pick one up.
That’s when the fishing trip turned tragic.
Authorities are continuing recovery efforts. The plane hasn’t yet been removed from the lake.
UPDATE: Aug. 30, 4:30 p.m.
NELSON, B.C. – RCMP say the Nelson man who perished in a float plane crashed at Nakusp last week was Jim Kienholz.
The 64-year-old was a longtime scorekeeper with the Nelson Leafs.
It has also been confirmed that a dog died in the crash.
UPDATE: Aug. 31, 11:45 a.m.
By Greg Nesteroff/Black Press
A longtime scorekeeper with the Nelson Leafs has been identified as the victim of last week’s float plane crash at Nakusp.
Jim Kienholz, 64, was a passenger in a plane piloted by a 79-year-old Nelson man, who suffered only minor injuries.
The two friends left Nelson Wednesday on a fishing trip to Fortress Lake on the BC-Alberta border and decided to stop in Nakusp to pick up a fishing license when the crash occurred.
RCMP divers recovered his body from the plane later that day. The aircraft was secured to a tugboat by a cable to prevent it from sinking, and later towed to shore.
The Transportation and Safety Board, BC Coroner’s Service and RCMP are continuing their investigation, but the pilot, who has 40 years flying experience, told the Arrow Lakes News he misjudged the glassy lake as he tried to land.
Kienholz kept score at Leafs hockey games for more than 20 years, said Mari Plamondon, the team’s past president. He was a permanent fixture in the scorekeeper’s booth.
“I think he might have missed two [games],” she says. “He loved sports.”
Kienholz played competitive soccer and golf. He also enjoyed the outdoors, and was an avid hiker and snowshoer.
“Anytime we brought in a new player that had any NHL or higher league heritage, he had a hockey card, and would bring it and show it to us, of somebody’s dad or uncle,” Plamondon says. “He was great for always bringing me treats like dried cherries and telling off-colour jokes,” she laughs.
Leafs treasurer Gord Davis, who knew Kienholz for about 20 years, and used to snowshoe with him, says he “knew the backcountry very well. We all felt very safe going with him because he knew what he was doing.”
Davis describes Kienholz as “far and away the best scorekeeper in the league. His work was incredibly neat and perfect. He virtually owned that position.”
Davis last saw his friend as the two worked together at the BC Seniors Games as off-ice officials for the gold medal hockey matches.
A celebration of Kienholz’s life is planned for Sunday, October 2 from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Nelson Rod and Gun Club hall.
The Leafs are also discussing ways of paying tribute to Kienholz — including putting his picture and last scoresheet in a display cabinet, and holding a moment of silence at a Leafs game to honour him and Gerry Koehle, a former senior Maple Leafs goaltender who died this month.