Pilot feels lucky to be alive after plane crashes into Quebec forest
An American pilot says he feels lucky to be alive after his plane’s engine failed mid-flight, sending him plummeting into a Quebec forest.
Shaky footage taken by Matt Lehtinen after the crash on July 27 shows a small white Cirrus SR22 crushed between trees.
“I just had to pull the CAPS parachute,” the pilot can be heard saying in the video he posted to YouTube. “I’m in the middle of Quebec.”
Lehtinen was flying from Wabush, N.L., to Quebec City when he realized his oil pressure and oil temperatures were off.
Then, the unthinkable happened: “a loud, ugly, nasty sound,” and the engine cut out.
“Sounded like the engine was trying to grind itself into pieces,” he later told CTV Montreal.
CAPS stands for Cirrus Airframe Parachute System. It’s a recovery system designed to slow the descent of a plane if it starts to go down and to soften the landing. The parachute is attached to the plane itself. Lehtinen believes pulling the parachute is one of the reasons he is alive today.
But a fair amount of luck was on his side too.
A tree punched up through the bottom of the airplane as it slammed into the forest, Lehtinen said.
“It actually was so close that it scraped my leg and ripped my shorts,” he said. “So only a few inches to one direction would have been probably a fatal type of injury.”
The force of the impact split the door of the plane in half, allowing Lehtinen to crawl out. Then, it was time to figure out how to get home.
The pilot sent out an SOS on his GPS and started a fire, trying to create enough smoke to signal emergency help.
Eventually, he got a response from the Royal Canadian Air Force.
“I finally got the message back that they spotted my smoke and knew exactly where I was,” Lehtinen said. The video shows aircraft swooping overhead.
A radio was dropped to Lehtinen from an RCAF plane.
“I had to scramble through a swamp about 200 metres to find it,” Lehtinen said. “As I walked up to the radio I could hear them calling my name through the radio.”
It was “the best feeling,” he said.
Lehtinen was stranded in the wilderness for five hours. It could have been much worse had he not had the ability to send out an SOS, he said.
“I quite possibly would have been there for many days and I did not have the supplies to survive for many days,” he said.
He hopes the footage of his journey following the crash could be helpful to others but right now he is mostly focused on feeling thankful.
“Words can't express the gratitude I feel towards everyone that was involved to rescue me,” Lehtinen said. “And there were many, many people involved.”