Crash survivor didn't think he would 'make it out'
Published Wednesday, December 10, 2008 11:49AM EST
The co-pilot of a small plane that crashed into the frozen waters off Baffin Island this week says he and the pilot believed they "weren't going to make it out" alive from their ordeal.
Oliver Edwards-Neil and Troels Hansen, both of Sweden, were travelling from Wabush, N.L., to Iqaluit, Nunavut, in a twin-engine Cessna Skymaster, when their plane's two engines died, forcing the pair to make an emergency landing on a patch of icy water on Sunday.
Somehow they managed to land the plane on a large ice patch and it slid to a stop. But the ice soon gave way and the plane, which was being delivered from the U.S. to its owner in Sweden, quickly sank.
The men said they were prepared for the worst as the plane was losing altitude. They had about five to eight minutes to prepare for the crash landing -- just enough time to put on their neoprene survival suits and send a mayday message.
Once the plane started to sink, the men jumped out and managed to get to a solid piece of ice.
"We would have been dead in 45 minutes" without the survival suits, Edwards-Neil, originally from Australia, told CTV's Canada AM by phone from his hospital bed in Iqaluit on Wednesday.
"We tried to stay focused on the issue, not suffer from shock or ignore the injuries ... it was all about staying focused (and) staying warm," he said.
The men believed a search party was on the way, and even watched planes buzz in the sky overhead. But as the hours passed, it appeared the search planes weren't able to see the men below.
Then night fell, temperatures dropped to about -20 C, and the planes went silent. The search appeared to have been called off for the night, and the pilots fell into despair, even losing hope.
"I really thought we weren't going to come out of it. I thought we weren't going to make it at that point," Edwards-Neil said.
However, search crews have said the men "made their own luck" and used their wits to survive the northern night. When morning arrived, the men saw a ship in the distance. It was the "Atlantic Enterprise," a fishing vessel which was taking part in the search and rescue effort.
After watching planes miss their location the day before, Edwards-Neil says he was "pessimistic" that ship's crew had actually seen the pair on the ice.
But then the boat began to honk its horn and "that was the best feeling you could imagine," he said.
The ship took the men aboard, kept them warm, and waited for a Cormorant helicopter, which later airlifted the men to Iqaluit. The pair was then taken to hospital, where they are being treated for their injuries, including minor frostbite.
Despite the injuries and their ordeal in Canada's frozen north, Edwards-Neil said he's extremely grateful to have survived.
"I'm feeling pretty good considering the circumstances," he said.