Tommy Sharp still can’t believe neither he, fellow passenger Barney Tootoo, or pilot Shawn Maley, currently of Yellowknife, were not seriously injured, or worse, after Maley’s Cessna 180 float plane crashed during takeoff from a remote fishing camp about 100 nautical miles (185 km) west of Rankin Inlet on Aug. 26.
Sharp, 40, co-owns the camp on Kamilukuak Lake with his sister, Pelagie.
Maley had dropped Sharp and Tootoo, both of Rankin Inlet, off to shut the camp down for the season the previous day, and the three were leaving the lake and heading to Rankin when the accident occurred.
Sharp was sitting in the front of the plane next to Maley.
He said it was just another routine day right up until the time the plane began to liftoff from the lake.
“I guess I’m not one of those people who can pick up bad vibes or whatever,” said Sharp.
“The plane started moving, everything seemed normal as we left the dock, and we went down the lake quite a way so we’d have a good stretch of lake to take-off on.
“We had good wind as we were leaving the dock, but it started dying down as we were taxiing, and the engine didn’t really sound right as we were taking off.
“Then, when we got off the water, I looked to the side – because it’s kind of hard to see over the dash when you’re taking off – and I could see the ground coming up at us pretty damn close.”
Sharp said the whole episode happened incredibly fast.
He said one second everything seems fine, then the world is literally turned upside-down the next.
“My first indication that anything was wrong was when I looked out the side.
“I didn’t know what was going to happen, but that land was getting pretty damn close and pretty damn fast.
“I don’t remember Shawn hollering that we were going down.
“It was like we just heard this bang when we hit, but everything just happened so fast.”
Sharp said he can’t remember anything going through his mind as he began to realize they were going to crash.
He said the next thing he knew he was hanging upside-down, and he vividly remembers what flashed across his mind at that point.
“My only thought was to get the hell out of the plane as quickly as I can because it was probably going to catch fire, so I unbuckled myself from the ceiling and was the first one to get out.
“I started walking around the plane and saw Shawn’s door was broken off, so I quickly went to his side and made sure everyone was able to get out OK.
“I think I was dazed at the beginning because I cracked my head on something – the dash I guess – but in a few moments we realized we were all OK and, after looking at that wreckage on the ground, we started hugging each another.
“Shawn told Barney and I that he was sorry quite a few times, but we just told him we’re all good and a plane can be replaced, so no problem.”
Tootoo, 69, goes out just about every year to help the Sharps open and close their fishing camp.
He said he gets the propane on at the start of the season and checks all the plumbing, while he, basically, ensures everything is shutdown and stored properly when it’s time to close.
“It was just another day when Shawn came back to get us, and everything went normally as we loaded everything into the plane and were ready to head back to Rankin.” said Tootoo.
“I was in the back and, for me, it was just another ordinary takeoff until everything happened in like a split second.
“After it all happened it seemed like the wind and the sun were the main things that caused it, but it was like we just ran out of water under us.
“The wind calmed right down to nothing just before we tried to take off and, apparently, for float planes, that’s the worst time to take off with calm water because you can’t really tell between the land and the water, and it was all just a glare with the sun in Shawn’s eyes too.”
Tootoo said he had no idea they were going to crash.
He said everything was fine until they seemed to run out of wind and water.
“It was a good thing, on Shawn’s part, that he managed to lift the nose of the plane a bit as we were going down.
“The pontoons looked to me like they took all the impact and then flipped us.
“Everything just happened so fast. I didn’t really feel anything because it was just like bang, bang and that was it.
“I didn’t even realize we were going down and the next thing I knew we were all hanging upside-down.”
Tootoo said after getting out and taking a good look at the plane, he thought it was amazing the three of them just walked out of there the way they did.
He said as lucky as he thinks he was, it won’t deter him from flying again.
“Everything just came together to form a bad time when we were taking off.
“Shawn has a new plane now, and I’ve already told him not too worry because I’m ready to go.
“He felt so bad after we went down. That’s the way Shawn is. He worries about everyone else more than himself.
“If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen – whether you’re in a plane or driving a vehicle – and you won’t know until it’s over.”