RCMP div­ing to float plane that crashed in lake nearly 60 years ago

The Western Star - - CANADA -

An RCMP dive on a re­mote north­ern Saskatchew­an lake this week will at­tempt to re­cover a pi­lot and a con­ser­va­tion of­fi­cer whose re­mains could still be inside the wreck­age of a float plane that van­ished al­most 60 years ago.

The location of the wreck­age in Peter Pond Lake had been a mys­tery un­til last month when a pri­vate search ef­fort, launched by the pi­lot’s daugh­ter and sonin-law, used sonar to find the sin­gle-en­gine Cessna 180 about 16 me­tres un­der wa­ter.

RCMP ini­tially said they would not be div­ing to the wreck­age, but now say a team will at­tempt to get inside the fuse­lage and gather what­ever may be left of pi­lot Ray Gran and Saskatchew­an con­ser­va­tion of­fi­cer Harold Thomp­son.

“I don’t want peo­ple’s ex­pec­ta­tions to be too high. We’re go­ing there to see what we can get, what we can re­trieve,” Cpl. Rob King said in an in­ter­view.

“It’s prob­a­bly the most dan­ger­ous job in the RCMP.”

The plane, owned by Saskatchew­an Govern­ment Air­ways, took off from Buf­falo Nar­rows, Sask., on Aug. 20, 1959, on a short flight to in­ves­ti­gate poach­ing and to de­liver mail to La Loche, Sask.

Gran was an ex­pe­ri­enced pi­lot in the Sec­ond World War and had earned the Dis­tin­guished Fly­ing Cross.

He typ­i­cally flew with his wife, Mar­cella, but she wasn’t on the doomed flight. She was six months preg­nant with their first child and the cou­ple de­cided it would be best for her to stay home.

Thomp­son was also mar­ried and was the fa­ther of a baby boy.

Gran waited some time for fog to clear be­fore tak­ing off, but it’s be­lieved it may have thick­ened and he tried un­suc­cess­fully to land.

News sto­ries from the time by The Cana­dian Press say the ini­tial Royal Cana­dian Air Force search for the miss­ing air­craft lasted about 10 days.

The Air Force con­cluded the plane had crashed into Peter Pond Lake and ev­ery­body on board had died.

That win­ter, a snow­mo­bile tow­ing a metal de­tec­tor tra­versed the lake ice look­ing for signs of the miss­ing plane, but the wreck­age was never lo­cated.

Last year, Don Ka­pusta, who had mar­ried Gran’s daugh­ter Linda, de­cided they should try to find the plane and called Garry Kozak, a sonar ex­pert spe­cial­iz­ing in ship­wreck and air­craft searches. Ka­pusta said

one of the rea­sons they de­cided to search was that Gran’s widow was 87 years old.

“This was some­thing she had thought about over the decades and never re­ally had an an­swer to, so we thought this was as good a time as any to do it,” ex­plained Ka­pusta, who lives in Toronto.

He bought a seven-me­tre­long boat and towed it to Buf­falo Nar­rows. Kozak, who is based in New Hamp­shire, flew with his sonar gear to Saska­toon and drove north.

Kozak had told Ka­pusta to gather as much in­for­ma­tion about the crash as pos­si­ble to nar­row down the area of the 552-square-kilo­me­tre lake that would need to be searched. Based on that in­for­ma­tion, Kozak plot­ted an area of about 50 square kilo­me­tres and di­vided it into four quad­rants to be searched over four days.

They found it on Day 1 af­ter ac­ci­den­tally cross­ing into an­other quad­rant.


Garry Kozak points to a sonar im­age as the first pic­ture of a Cessna 180 which dis­ap­peared on Au­gust 20, 1959, comes into view on Peter Pond Lake.

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