Capt Jordan Woodman
17 Wing Public Affairs Officer
17 Wing Winnipeg, Man - Just past midnight on 6 May 2012, a CC-130 Hercules aircraft from 435 Transport and Rescue (T&R) Squadron departed 17 Wing Winnipeg, in search of an overdue aircraft that had not arrived at its intended destination of Kapekun Lake, Manitoba.
Within a minute of arriving at the search area, SAR Tech Master Corporal Carl Portman spotted something white in the water and called for the pilot to turn around and take a closer look. “Since the moon was so bright, I could clearly see it was an upside down aircraft with its pontoons sticking out of the water. But there was still a chance the pilot could have made it out alive, so we had to confirm,” said MCpl Portman.
The SAR Tech Team Leader, Sergeant Randy McOrmond and MCpl Portman, planned to parachute into the lake since it was too dark to determine a safe place to jump on land. Still, water jumps pose their own challenges, especially at night where there could be unseen logs or other debris in the water and it is difficult to assess the depth. “If there is potential to save life, we are willing to assume more risk,” said MCpl Portman.
In addition, this was MCpl Portman’s first operational night jump and also his first operational water jump. But he knew the training he had undertaken had prepared him for moments like this. “I had a lot of adrenaline running through me,” he said, “but I focused and reminded myself that every decision I was about to make was critical.”
They knew that after the jump they would have to stay overnight. So they got their survival and medical gear together, donned their dry suits, and prepared to jump. “We took our time preparing and no hasty decisions were made during the jump,” said MCpl Portman.
The SAR Techs swam to the downed aircraft in hopes that it was empty. “The visibility was terrible, and I could only see about 6 inches in front of me,” said MCpl Portman. The SAR Techs felt around the inside of the cockpit and were able to confirm that the pilot was still in the seat underwater and was not alive.
The pilot of the aircraft had crashed at the edge of the lake approximately one hundred meters away from his cottage. “I had initially thought he might have made it out,” said MCpl Portman. “It is really sad, especially since he was so close to where he was going. My heart goes out to his family.”
The SAR Techs swam back to shore and spent the night. The next day a float plane arrived with a fully equipped RCMP dive team that was sent to recover the body. The SAR Techs boarded that same plane and began their return trip back to 17 Wing Winnipeg.