‘These guys saved my life’: Plane crash survivor surprises his rescuers at Comox Air Show


A sea of people filled 19 Wing Comox Saturday, captivated by roaring jets performing aeronautic acrobatics overhead.

“It’s just pretty cool when they go flying by and then the sound is back here, yeah,” said spectator Joanna Casselman, who travelled from Nanaimo for the show.

The Comox Valley welcomed the return of the Comox Air Show, that hasn’t been held since 2015.

“So it’s just awesome to see this,” said spectator and Comox Valley resident Tudor Davies.

Yet, one man wasn’t looking up. He was focused on a Search & Rescue Cormorant helicopter that is based at 19 Wing and was offering tours Saturday, and hoped to meet the crew who saved his life.

“My name is captain Wes Mitchell and I was involved in an aircraft accident last year in Gold River on July 28th, and these guys saved my life,” Mitchell told CHEK News on Saturday.

Watch the full story below:

The airplane pilot recalls he was just minutes from landing, and on the last trip of his workday on July 28, 2023 when something went terribly wrong. The machine fell from the sky, and in pictures taken at the crash scene, the plane looks more like a crumpled can than an aircraft after it collided and came to rest in tall trees.

“I had some kind of control issue with the airplane and I couldn’t stop it turning and I just went into the trees and said, ‘Well this is where I die,’ but I didn’t,” said Mitchell.

That’s because search and rescue (SAR) crews aboard the Cormorant helicopter were able to carefully reach, rescue and rush the badly injured man to hospital, in a maneuver that Mitchell said he still can’t believe.

“We’re lucky we have this kind of service available to us, because if I’d have crashed in a lot of countries I’d still be dead out in the woods,” said Mitchell.

“I’m very happy to meet him. We don’t usually get to meet the people we save, so it’s an honour to have met him today,” said SAR Technician Carl Schouton.

Mitchell said as soon as he learned about the return of the Comox Air Show, which was the first to be held for nine years, he wanted to attend, solely to meet the SAR team.

The show was expected to draw 20,000 people to 19 Wing on Saturday, but many spectators estimated the number that came through the gates for the free show to be much higher.

“I think there’s more than that. I would say there’s upwards of 30 to 40,000 people coming from all over the Island. It’s not just the Comox Valley, it’s coming from everywhere,” said spectator Lara Funk who travelled from North Cowichan for the air show.

“It’s the biggest crowd I’ve seen since COVID started, so four years,” said Davies.

The show offered thousands of people an up close look at the power of 19 Wing Comox, and for one man, the chance to say thanks for saving his life.

Skye Ryan

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