Laying a 59-year-old mystery to rest: RCMP plan dive attempt to recover missing plane

Laying a 59-year-old mystery to rest: RCMP plan dive attempt to recover missing plane

Nearly 60 years after a float plane and those aboard went missing, police now have a location for the plane and may attempt a dive into the depths of northern Saskatchewan's Peter Pond Lake to recover it.

"They do have a skilled diving team and we're happy that they're moving forward to try and recover remains," said Don Kapusta, husband of Linda Kapusta.

Linda's father Ray Gran was the pilot of the Cessna 180 that crashed into the lake on Aug. 20, 1959.

The only other occupant was Harold Thompson, a conservation officer.

Thompson's sister Arlene Mar also was buoyed by news of the search, calling it an "exciting time" for her family.

She was 21 years old when her brother went missing. She had wondered for years whether her brother might have survived the crash. If his remains are recovered, it will put to rest all those lingering questions.

"I'll quit looking for one thing, for any Harold Thompson that lives in Canada — and there's many," she said with a chuckle.

The search restarts

The two men had been on their way to La Loche, Sask., when dense fog rolled in. Gran tried to turn around, but the plane crashed. Nearly seven months after it went down, the search for the plane was called off.

But in 2017, the Kapustas began researching sonar technology and found an expert that could help them in their quest to find the plane. Months of work went into planning a search, that took place on July 30, 2018, and ultimately turned up the location of the plane.  

The Kapustas notified Buffalo Narrows RCMP of the discovery, with RCMP continuing to stay in touch about arranging for a dive for the remains.

Police are looking to launch those recovery efforts on the week of Aug. 27.  

Favourable conditions needed

Cpl. Rob King, with the Saskatchewan RCMP's communications division, said there are a number of steps police will have to take to assess the area, the position of the wreckage and visibility, among other factors.

"If all those things check out, and deemed to be safe and doable and weather conditions are favourable, then the next step is to put investigators into the water," he said.

The RCMP's team of experienced divers will make the final call, he said.

The initial goal will be to collect photos and videos of the wreckage, to assist with the Transport Canada investigation, he said. But RCMP will also try to recover the two occupants' remains.

Kapusta said he's encouraged by the fact that the plane is largely intact, and noted that the recovery of the remains would be meaningful not only to him and his wife, but to the Thompson family as well.

It also offers a chance to bring Ray Gran back to his wife, Marcella, who was six months pregnant when the plane went down. She spent the next 59 years waiting to know exactly what happened to her husband.

"Linda's mom passed very shortly after we discovered the aircraft, literally within hours," said Kapusta.

"Our goal is to finally reunite them after all these years."