Author of the article: Aedan Helmer

The outcome could have been much worse for a pilot whose small plane crashed into the water near Constance Bay if not for the fast action of a few friends out boating on Sunday afternoon.

According to officials, the pilot was treated in hospital for minor injuries after two planes clipped wings mid-air. According to witnesses, one plane crashed nose-first into the water, narrowly missing other people on their pleasure boats.

Matt Trueman was on the water with his buddy Corey Hewitt, returning from Buckham’s Bay in his 18-foot Bowrider when they spotted another friend Shaun Swire on his pontoon boat, waving his arms.

“I figured he was excited to see me, but he’s like, ‘Look out! Look out! Look out!’

“And I turn around and look up and there’s a plane coming in for a crash landing right towards us,” Trueman said. “So we fired out of the way and started waving at the other boat behind us.

“The plane nose-dove into the water, missed the boat behind us by 20 feet. We fired up again and were first on the scene. My buddy Corey Hewitt jumped into the water like a goddamn David Hasselhoff — went in there, pulled him out onto the pontoon boat and got him to safety. 

“I can’t believe with the way it was coming in we didn’t have fatalities.”

Hewitt, 36, has some experience in tense situations on the water as a seasoned whitewater raft guide with Wilderness Tours who has also taught whitewater rescue at Algonquin College.

“So I have a lot of scene experience with stuff like that,” said Hewitt. “But you don’t really practise that (scenario).

“For me the only thing going through my mind was, ‘Let’s help out, let’s figure out what’s happening, and let’s help these people in trouble’.”

Hewitt said the pilot was conscious and coherent when he pulled the man from the submerging cockpit and dragged him to safety onto a pontoon. The man was wearing a life jacket, Hewitt said.

“He could communicate but he was obviously pretty shook up,” Hewitt said. “He took a big hit.”

Rescue crews with Ottawa Fire Services and Ottawa paramedics took over care on shore.

In a news release, fire officials credited “the quick action of the pleasure boats in the area who immediately rushed to the aid of the downed plane.”

Paramedics treated the pilot, a man in his 70s, for minor injuries and said he was listed in stable condition in hospital. The man’s name was not released.

Multiple 911 calls came in just before 3 p.m. reporting the plane had crashed into the river after colliding mid-air with another small plane.

Fire officials said they learned while en route that the pilot of the downed plane had already been rescued by boaters. According to fire officials, the plane was upside down in the river and “the wreckage was secured by fire rescue crews on scene.

The float plane, a single-engine Champion 7GB, is owned by Peter Cameron of Dunrobin, according to the national aircraft registry.

Officials said the other plane involved in the collision, a single-engined Cessna 172M, landed safely in Arnprior. It’s owned by Don Robertson of Fitzroy Harbour.

Dan Lynch, operations manager at the aiport, said Robertson, who was piloting the plane with his family aboard — two other adults and a child — had radioed that he’d been in a collision with a floatplane and thought his plane was damaged. Lynch said another plane in the area flew alongside the Cessna and reported damage to the cowling on the nose-wheel.

Lynch said the airport declared an emergency and called for fire department response. In addition to a fire engine, four provincial police units and three ambulance responded. Search and Rescue in Trenton had dispatched a C130 Hercules aircraft, which turned back after the Cessna landed safely. NAV Canada and the Transportation Safety Board have been notified, Lynch added.