Plane discovery brings closure for family of missing pilot

By Jill Sperling
October 11, 2018 - 5:07pm Updated: October 11, 2018 - 6:38pm

KAMLOOPS — Search crews looking for a plane that went missing from Stony Plain, Alta. in September have discovered the wreckage of a different aircraft that disappeared decades ago. 

It was the plane carrying 55-year-old Len Dykhuizen and pilot 78-year-old Ernie Whitehead, who had left Eagle Bay for a fishing trip to McDougall Lake in June 1987. 

Whitehead's nephew, John Harper, lives in Pritchard. He recalls going for a ride in his Uncle Ernie's float plane when he was about 10 years old. 

"I think every nephew had a ride in it and it was quite a common sight to see Ern's Super Cub," Harper said. 

Whitehead was an experienced pilot who made frequent trips in his plane, but on June 20, 1987 Whitehead departed on a fishing trip with his neighbour, Dykhuizen, that would be their last. 

For 31 years there were no answers and family members of both men had to come to terms with what likely happened. 

"We felt great sadness that he was gone," Harper said, "and of course there's always been that void, what ever happened to him? Finding this aircraft I'm sure gives some people absolute closure because we knew he had gone down but we didn't know if we'd ever have this day that (we) knew what happened really." 

Whitehead's plane was found by the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre near Kostal Lake in Wells Gray Provincial Park on Sept. 18. 

Unfortunately, many of Whitehead's family members passed away before ever discovering what had happened to him. 

"It's too bad that a lot of them didn't know about this find, but I'm sure that for a lot of the remaining Whitehead's and all of their assorted relatives, like my mother was a Whitehead, it's great to know what finally happened." 

The plane is located in a remote area of Wells Gray Provincial Park and recovery efforts are set to resume in spring. 

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