VERNON - First, Ed Rougeau heard a plane engine thrumming in the sky over his home on the rural, west side of Okanagan Lake. Then the engine cut, and over his shoulder Rougeau saw the Cessna 180 float plane crash into the forest. It was loud as the plane knocked its way through the trees, but after that, everything went silent.
Rougeau yelled to his wife to call 911 and jumped on his quad. He checked an old hay field down the road, hoping the pilot had landed in the open but the field was empty.
It was around 7 p.m. and still light out when Rougeau noticed something glimmering in the sun down in Six Mile Creek valley. It was the fallen Cessna. The wings were clipped off in the crash and the plane itself was crumpled.
“It was dead still, so quiet you couldn’t even hear a breath,” Rougeau says.
He climbed through the brush towards the plane and saw the pilot walking around.
“He was moving gas cans, a motor. He secured everything, shut off the fuel, got everything explosive away,” Rougeau says.
B.C. Wildfire had been notified for just that reason; a plane crash could ignite a forest fire.
The pilot, described by Rougeau as tall at over 6 feet and about 250 pounds with a clean shaven head, had a few cuts but wasn’t bleeding badly. Rougeau exchanged a few words with him, made sure he was alright, and went looking for cell service to contact the emergency crews out looking for the plane.
When he returned, the pilot, who identified himself as Seth, had begun to bleed profusely and was going into shock. He complained of a headache and neck pain.
Soon, Rougeau heard first responders coming through the bush and went out to meet them. He led them the 1.5 kilometers to the crash site on old skid trails and let them take over.
Rougeau doesn’t know much about Seth. Only that he was headed to meet some friends on Okanagan Lake when his engine stalled, sending him plummeting to the ground just 5 km from his destination. He knows Seth used to be a firefighter. He knows he's 52 years old. He also knows things could have turned out very differently.
“He was pretty damn lucky. He just has cuts on his head—he’ll need some stitches—but everywhere else he doesn’t have a scratch on him. He’s a lucky man to walk away from that,” Rougeau says.
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