‘It happened too fast’: Passenger recalls Fond du Lac plane crash
One of the passengers on a plane that crashed in northern Saskatchewan says he woke up upside down and soaked in gas after the collision.
“I couldn’t see at first, because there was gas in my eyes and my mouth and my nose — all over,” Timothy Toutsaint Jr. told CTV News.
The 16-year-old was one of 25 people on the West Wind Aviation plane that went down Wednesday evening shortly after takeoff from Fond du Lac, Sask. Multiple people were injured — some with serious enough injuries to require air ambulance services — but no one has died and all passengers have been accounted for, according to RCMP.
Toutsaint said he doesn’t remember hitting the ground, but recalls hearing what he believes were the plane’s engines cutting out.
“It happened too fast,” he said.
He estimates the aircraft wasn’t in the air for more than three minutes before the plane started falling.
“I was looking down and I was noticing the trees were coming closer, and closer, and closer, and so many thoughts were going through my head. I didn’t know what to think.”
He said he believes he was knocked out.
“I don’t remember anything from there. I just remember I blacked out. I think I got knocked out, and then woke up. When I woke up, I was upside down,” Toutsaint said.
The teenager said the first thing he did was get out of the plane and look for the passenger who had been beside him. The person had flown out of the plane and his seat was gone, according to Toutsaint.
Toutsaint found him standing at the scene.
“He wasn’t saying nothing. He was shocked. He didn’t know what to do. He was saying my name over and over, and again kept repeating my name,” Toutsaint said. “I told him, ‘Stay calm. Stay calm. Stay calm,’ but he was panicking.”
Another woman on the plane had a gash on her forehead.
“There was a lady on the plane. She was stuck there. Her whole face was covered in blood. She had a gash on her forehead,” Toutsaint said. “It was the worst thing I’ve seen. I’ve never seen so much blood.”
Toutsaint said he yelled into the plane but heard no response. He assumed some of the passengers died, but the wreckage prevented him from getting back into the aircraft.
“I tried to get in there but I couldn’t get in. All those seats were crushed together,” he said.
He walked away from the wreckage to find help, eventually meeting people on snowmobiles and in trucks.
Rescuer Raymond Sanger said the area was covered in gas when he arrived at the scene. The plane was sitting sideways and a few people were pinned inside the aircraft.
“We started breaking the aircraft on the side where the people were, where we could try to get them out,” he told CTV News.
He recalled specifically helping one woman and one man — Sanger guessed the man was in his early 20s — trapped in the plane.
“I was talking to the lady that was pinned in there, and the boy that was in there, just to keep them confident,” Sanger said.
He held the man’s hands for as long as he could in the cold, before another rescuer took his place.
None of the rescuers let the gas affect their efforts, according to Sanger.
“Nobody even thought about the area of the gas. Nobody even thought about it,” he said. “They were busy trying to get that boy out.”
RCMP said officers found the aircraft less than a kilometre from the airstrip.
A picture of the crash site shows the damaged aircraft partly on its side in the trees, with a wing jutting up in the air at a 45-degree angle, but there's not yet any insight into what caused the crash.
The twin-engine ATR-42 turboprop can accommodate 50 passengers, but most typically seats 42 people along with two crew. Manufactured in France and Italy, the aircraft is designed for short-haul flights.
West Wind Aviation, formed in 1983, operates from bases in Saskatoon, La Ronge and Stony Rapids, as well as in northern Saskatchewan. The company is First Nations and employee-owned, with Athabasca Basin Development the majority shareholder.
Investigators with the Transportation Safety Board were due to arrive in Fond du Lac sometime Thursday.
Based on interviews by CTV News Channel and with files from Matt Young, Karyn Mulcahy and The Canadian Press