Helicopter pilot, passenger, rescued from Weewanie Hot Springs

A pilot and his passenger had to be rescued off a beach along the Douglas Channel when their helicopter developed mechanical failure and wouldn’t take off again.

Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue (RCM SAR) Station 63 Kitimat coxswain Duncan Peacock said the helicopter, which became stranded on the beach at Weewanie Hot Springs about 42km from Kitimat, landed late on Saturday while on a pleasure trip from Houston.

Peacock said that after enjoying the hot springs, the pilot and his passenger returned to the helicopter to resume their flight.

“However, the helicopter developed a mechanical problem and was unable to take off again,” said Peacock. “The two were forced to spend the night on the beach near the helicopter.”

To make matters worse, the tide came in and the helicopter pilot and his passenger had to stand by and watch as the helicopter became partially submerged in sea water.

“Even though they landed quite high up the beach, right up against the trees, the tide that day was extreme, at least 20 foot that night, which was at least four foot above the normal level,” said Peacock. “

He said on Sunday morning, RCM SAR 63 Kitimat received a call from the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre, asking them to investigate a report that had been called in by a group of Kitamaat Village fishermen that there was a helicopter stranded at Weewanie.

Four RCM SAR members launched Snowflake Responder 3, one of the unit’s newer closed vessels, and sped out to Weewanie, a 45-minute trip.

“As we approached we heard radio traffic from other vessels who had rushed to the beach to investigate that the fishermen had made it to the beach with a small skiff,” said Peacock.

The pilot and his passenger were transferred from the fishermen’s boat to the RCM SAR boat and brought back to Kitimat by 10 a.m, unharmed but a little shaken by their experience.

Peacock took the two in his vehicle to the Terrace-Kitimat airport, where they would at least be able to hire a vehicle or catch a flight home.

He said the helicopter would probably have to be salvaged either by sending a barge from Prince Rupert, or by a heavy lift helicopter.

Peacock thanked the fishermen and Prince Rupert Coast Guard radio for their assistance in the rescue effort.

RCM SAR 63 Kitimat is supported by Kitimat Marine Rescue Society and covers the area from Kitimat to the Hecate Straits, its mission distances and durations the longest of all RCM SAR stations.