Investigator in 2009 Saturna Island float plane crash says new regulations don’t go far enough


WATCH: New Transport Canada regulations require anyone on a float plane with nine passengers or less to wear a life jacket, but a former TSB investigator says that’s not enough. April Lawrence reports.

If you fly on certain float planes you’ll soon be required to wear a life jacket on board. The new Transport Canada regulation comes in the wake of a fatal 2009 crash off Saturna Island.

“I’m very pleased that we’ve finally gotten something, we’ve been advocating for at least 20 years to get life jackets on people,” said retired Transportation Safety Board investigator Bill Yearwood.

Six people were killed in the Saturna Island crash, including Patrick Morrissey’s wife and infant daughter.

“I’m happy with it but sad they didn’t go all the way,” he said.

“Pop-out windows, more intuitive door handles, those are still critical as part of the accident path that progresses as part of a float plane crash,” he said.

It’s a feeling echoed by Yearwood who investigated the Saturna crash.

“Getting better at emergency exit doors was the key recommendation,” he said.

“We’ve got to get out of the aircraft and so many people drown in the aircraft, in this case that was it, they didn’t die from impact, they died because they drowned, trapped in the aircraft.”

Yearwood believes float planes should be required to have pop out windows but says many operators have resisted due to cost.

“If you think safety’s expensive, try an accident,” he said.

Some, like Harbour Air, have installed pop-out windows anyway and they say they plan to make sure their fleet meets the new life-jacket regulations as well.

If you’re on a seaplane with more than nine passengers flotation devices will still have to be on-board, but you won’t have to wear them. Operators have 18 months to implement the new rules.

April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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