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Survivor of northern Ontario plane crash recounts nightmare

The lone survivor of a deadly plane crash in northern Ontario says he tried in vain to pull fellow passengers from the wreckage and snuff the fire that eventually destroyed the small aircraft.

Brian Shead says the crash near the tiny native community of North Spirit Lake happened in a flash.

He says one second he was reading a book and the next second he was on the ground fighting for his life.

He says the impact of the crash knocked him and everyone else out. When he came to everyone was still strapped in their seats.

With a crushed foot and a smashed face, he managed to get out of the plane and tried to put out a fire that was burning on a wing.

When he realized that wasn’t working, he managed to free the pilot, but the pilot didn’t survive. Three passengers also died.

“I relive it every night, constantly thinking could I have done something differently that might have changed something,” Shead said Thursday in his first media availability since the crash earlier this month.

The Transportation Safety Board has not determined a cause.

Shead, who spoke slowly and paused several times to compose himself, said he still struggles to reconcile why he was spared when others were not.

“An event like this changes a person,” he said. “I’m determined not to take life for granted. I’ll never be able to fill the shoes of the great people who passed away that day, but I’ll do my best to follow their lead.”

Shead, who works as an adminstrator for First Nations bands, said he is happy to be home with his wife and three children.

But he also remembers the “good friends” who died in the plane crash and would “like to think” that they were already dead when he came to.

The Keystone Airlines plane that crashed Jan. 10 was trying to land in a blizzard. Residents who rushed to the crash site frantically tried to put out the flaming wreckage with snow.

The plane was not equipped with a cockpit voice recorder or flight data recorder. It was landing at an airport where there is no control tower.