Fisherman saves 4 after float plane hits water taxi in Tofino

Right place at right time

Ken Brown was tied up at the Whiskey Dock in Tofino late Monday afternoon when he saw a float plane hit a water taxi in the harbour.

“They were both coming into the harbour,” said Brown. “The Rocky Pass water taxi was clipped by the Beaver plane from Tofino Air.”

The Ahousaht fisherman, who helped to save the lives of 11 passengers aboard the Leviathan II whale-watching boat on Oct. 25, 2015, said he wasn’t scared as he raced across the water to the sinking float plane to save four more souls.

“The propeller and the engine dove into the water. The wing clipped the side of my boat and ripped from the top of my cabin all the way down. I had to back my boat up and get out of the line of fire. I managed to get out of the way. It happened so fast, it was crazy.”

Then the back door opened on the starboard side and Brown saw a young boy and his father. He manoeuvred the back of his boat towards the propeller.

“Everyone was in shock. And everyone had to get in the water because the plane was sinking. I reached out with my hand and grabbed the young little guy and his father, then the same thing with two ladies,” said Brown.

“One lady didn’t want to jump in but I told her: ‘You have to jump in now. The plane is going down.’ I told her just come in the water and come towards my hand. She grabbed my hand and I kept reassuring her she was OK.”

The pilot helped the passengers onto Brown’s boat, made sure everyone was safe, then hopped aboard the water taxi as the plane was sinking.

Brown took the four passengers to the dock.

“I’ve saved 15 people in my life now,” said Brown. “I’m OK. But there’s still some heavy-heartedness in me. My mind is still thinking about everything that’s gone on.”

The deaths of six people aboard the Leviathan II never leaves him, said Brown. And this close call has brought it all back.

“I will live with that for the rest of my life. I’ll never stop thinking about it.”

Brown’s friends and family tell him he was in the right place at the right time.

“I don’t know why I’m graced with such … I can’t even explain it. My friends think I was put on Earth to save people,” he said.

The Transportation Safety Board is investigating the collision and gathering information to determine its next steps, said spokesman Dean Campbell.

The Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre received a call at 4:39 p.m. Monday that a float plane had flipped after making contact with a boat. By the time the coast guard and an RCMP vessel arrived on the scene, Brown had taken everyone ashore.

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