SOUTH DUNDAS — Four teenage lifeguards and a local boater have been honoured by their municipality for quick action in assisting a pilot whose plane splashed down in the St. Lawrence River earlier this month.
The small plane ditched into the river on the morning of Aug. 8, just west of Iroquois beach, where lifeguards Dylan Picotte, Sophia Currier and Maiah and Quinn Horne reacted to the scene, while Clare Tatton was first to reach the pilot in a fishing boat.
All five were presented with certificates of commendation from Municipality of South Dundas Mayor Evonne Delegarde at the Aug. 16 council meeting.
Sisters Maiah and Quinn, respective 16- and 17-year-old Seaway District High School students, said they began paddling out on rescue boards to the downed aircraft, which was floating upright with the pilot still strapped in at that point. Picotte, 17, said he ran along the shoreline with a first aid kit, while Currier waited to give directions to the arriving ambulance.
“I was in the middle of teaching a swimming lesson,” recounted Picotte. “The kids didn’t mind. It was pretty crazy.”
The lifeguards said the plane was trying to land at nearby Iroquois Municipal Airport but circled back over the river to avoid seagulls. Then the engine sputtered and died, forcing the pilot to land on the water. Tatton got there first and coaxed the Brockville man out of his seat and into the fishing boat. “I think he walked on the wing,” Picotte said.
The pilot appeared shocked but was OK, save for a scratch above his eyebrow, according to the Cornwall Collegiate Vocational School student. The Brockville man briefly received treatment from paramedics but didn’t require transport to hospital.
“He was really worried about his plane. He didn’t want to leave his plane,” said Maiah Horne.
Tatton used his boat to tow the aircraft — which was largely undamaged — closer to shore.
Rescue boats from the South Dundas Fire Department and the OPP also arrived to assist in what was a day all involved will never forget.
Quinn Horne recalled that Colleen Leslie of the Lifesaving Society had instructed the group on how to deal with a plane crash as part of their training. “So we were prepared,” she smiled. The group just never guessed they would make use of that knowledge.
The lifeguards spoke with Nation Valley News on Aug. 19, last day for Currier at the beach before heading off to study commerce at the University of Toronto. The remaining trio will be on site until Aug. 26.
Video below shows the South Dundas Fire Department rescue boat alongside the downed plane in the St. Lawrence .