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Investigators hope pilot will be able to explain why plane crashed into New Germany Lake

A floatplane lays upside down in New Germany Lake in New Germany on Wednesday. The floatplane crashed into the lake on Tuesday after it clipped power lines when attempting to land, RCMP said.
A float plane lays upside down in New Germany Lake in New Germany on Wednesday. The float plane crashed into the lake on Tuesday after it clipped power lines when attempting to land, RCMP said. - Francis Campbell
NEW GERMANY, N.S. —

The couple who survived a Tuesday afternoon float plane crash in New Germany are lucky to be alive.

That was the prevailing sentiment Wednesday in the quaint Lunenburg County community.

As they topped up their gas tanks at the New Germany Irving and Convenience, drivers speculated about the plane flying too low.

“She saw the plane coming up the river and it was too low,” Greg Russell, who lives across Highway 10 from the small lake that is part of the LaHave River system, said of his daughter, Jillian, who was standing across from their driveway when the crash happened. “She said she knew something was going to happen. It hit the wires and pitch-poled and went straight down.”

Greg Russell said his daughter, 36, who was working Wednesday, rushed into the house after witnessing the crash.

“She was quite upset,” Russell said. “She came in and wanted to pick up the cordless phone but they don’t work when the power goes out.”

Father and daughter then made the short trek to the lake.

“Four people actually got into the water and went out (to the plane),” he said. “I was kind of concerned because of the power lines being down, I didn’t know if they were energized but apparently it wasn’t an issue.”

The small plane was nose down in the lake water Wednesday where it came to rest between two piles of rocks, piers once used to tie up logs in the lake while they awaited shipment to the mill, Russell said.

The RCMP reported that the float plane clipped power lines before crashing into the lake at about 4:45 p.m. on Tuesday. The power lines are about 100 metres from where the plane came to rest just dozens of metres west of the highway and near the St. John in the Wilderness Anglican Church and cemetery.

- Francis Campbell
- Francis Campbell

An RCMP statement said officers saw the damaged plane in the water with two injured people inside. The RCMP and two fire departments helped to remove a man and woman from the plane.

The two were taken to hospital by paramedics with what police said were undetermined injuries. The pair were unofficially identified as Stan Wilcox, the registered owner and pilot of the plane, and his wife.

Facebook posts report that the Wilcoxes were trapped in the plane for a period of time after the crash and that both suffered bone fractures.

Area residents, curious about the crash, stopped by the site through the morning and early afternoon Wednesday.

Gail Tomson, who lives 20 minutes away in East Dalhousie, said she and her husband and some friends were halfway through a friendly game of darts in her husband’s workshop when the power went out.

“There was no loud bang or noise or anything,” Tomson said. Their electricity was reconnected by 11 p.m.

Bert Brendel and Verena Weiss didn’t notice the power had gone out because they are off the grid.

“We have POD, power on demand,” Brendel joked.

The couple were surprised that a plane was flying so low.

“I used to fly,” Brendel said. “He must have been flying too low. If you land on a big lake like that, why would you come in so low.”

Weiss mused, “the lake is long enough.”

“Too bad for that little plane,” Brendel concluded.

Russell said there are two hangars, one on the west side of the lake and one on the east.

The floatplane was attempting to land when it clipped power lines, RCMP said.
The floatplane was attempting to land when it clipped power lines, RCMP said.

“The guy that owns the one on this side usually puts on a yearly what’s called a fly-in,” Russell said. “He has all kinds of friends around and these planes come in.”

Mervin Zinck, who owns the hangar on Highway 10, just north of the crash site, could not be reached for comment. A Facebook post said the couple in the plane were coming in for a barbecue.

The Wilcoxes live in Cambridge, Kings County, and it is believed the pilot is a member of the Annapolis Valley Flying Association but no one with that group replied to interview requests.

Meanwhile, the RCMP has handed off the investigation to the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.

“We have been informed of that (crash) and the investigators are collecting data and doing their research in that respect but we are not sending anybody to the site,” said TSB spokesman Dean Campbell.

He said the investigation will be conducted by phone interviews, likely starting with the pilot. Campbell didn’t offer a timeline on the length of the investigation.

Russell said he does not know the Wilcoxes but he looked up the plane’s identification online and said he has seen it in the area often. He also said his online search turned up several other area plane crashes from recent years.

A couple from Dryden, Ont., escaped serious injury when their small float plane crashed into trees near Italy Cross, about 15 kilometres southwest of Bridgewater, in August 2017.

Byron Varner, 65, of Barss Corner died when his ultralight plane crashed and burned near Old Barss Corner Road in August 2013. Varner, an experienced pilot, was the lone occupant of the plane. Barss Corner Road is about 30 kilometres northwest of Bridgewater.

In September 2012, New Germany resident Trevor Myra was seriously injured when his ultralight plane crashed near his hometown. New Germany is 28 kilometres northwest of Bridgewater.

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