Bissett-Based Pilot Involved in Tragic Crash

Johnathon Friesen, who was piloting a Blue Water Aviation DeHavilland Otter (similar to those in the picture above) out of Bisset, went down with two passengers on board. The body of one of the passengers was found by divers, but Friesen and the other passenger are still unaccounted for. See story on page 3. (File photo)

Pilot had 9,000 flight hours and extensive experience with DeHavilland Otters

By Don Norman

On October 26 RCMP in Little Grand Rapids said that at around 8:40 am, they received a report of a plane crash, 110 kilometers north of Bissett.
Witnesses had said the plane clipped a tree before going into the water, with possibly three on board.

The release noted that RCMP Search & Rescue, the RCMP Underwater Recovery Team and a search and rescue plane from RCAF 435 Squadron in Winnipeg, were all en route.

Later that day, RCMP reported that they had located wreckage from the plane. “Plane debris has been located in Family Lake, near Little Grand Rapids, Manitoba,” the release noted. “Three people have now been confirmed to be on board at time of crash. Search on shore and on the water is ongoing. The RCMP Underwater Recovery Team will be diving tomorrow.”

On October 27, divers with the RCMP Underwater Recovery Team recovered the body of a 49-year-old male from Family Lake. He had been identified as one of two passengers in the nine-seat Otter float plane at the time of the crash. The 39-year-old male pilot and a 42-year-old male passenger remain unaccounted for.

The plane was a DeHavilland Otter, owned by Blue Water Aviation, a company based out of Silver Falls. The plane had taken off from Bissett.
Ed Gaffray from Blue Water Aviation provided the Advocate with a statement revealing that the pilot was 39-year-old, Johnathon Friesen who had 9000 flight hours and extensive experience flying Otter aircraft, including 15 seasons with Blue Water.

Pilot of the downed flight, Johnathon Friesen was highly experienced and had been flying for Blue Water Aviation for 17 years. (photo Blue Water Aviation).

Blue Water’s release also noted that Friesen leaves behind his wife Tanya (who also works for Blue Water Aviation), and their two children. The family lives in Bissett.

The full statement from Blue Water Aviation can be read below.

The RCMP and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada are continuing the investigation

Full Statement from Blue Water Aviation

Blue Water Aviation

On Saturday at approximately 8am a single engine De Havilland Otter float plane, owned and operated by Blue Water Aviation, took off from Bissett, MB with a pilot and two passengers on board.

It was headed for Little Grand Rapids on a private charter. The plane never reached the destination. When we received word of the incident we dispatched a helicopter to aid the RCMP in the initial search and rescue but unfortunately there were no survivors. The accident site was located just short of it’s destination in Family Lake.

We can confirm the pilot was 39 year old Jonathan Friesen. He was very experienced, with over 9,000 flight hours. He worked with Blue Water for 17 seasons, 15 of those flying Otter airplanes. He leaves behind his wife Tanya, who also works for Blue Water, and their two kids Liam and Keira.
Our thoughts are with the families of all three people at this difficult time. We would like to thank all the first responders for their hard work in difficult conditions. We would also like to thank the community for their outpouring of support.

Blue Water is a family run company, this tragedy has deeply touched us all. Safety is our primary concern and we are doing everything we can to help the Transportation Safety Board with its investigation.

This flight came at the end of the flying season for our company and no further flights are currently scheduled for this fall.

While this matter is still under investigation we can’t comment any further.