RICHMOND HILL, Ont. - The Transportation Safety Board of Canada says underwater escape training and shoulder harnesses would have improved the chances of survival in a fatal float plane accident in northern Ontario last year.
Two people drowned after the May 25, 2012, crash landing of a Cochrane Air Service float plane on Lillabelle Lake in Cochrane, north of Timmins, but the third person on the plane was able to escape.
The board said Wednesday in its report on the incident that all three people on the de Havilland Beaver float plane survived the initial impact, which left the aircraft partially submerged after it hit the water and flipped over.
It's recommending that all commercial seaplanes certified for nine or fewer passengers be fitted with seat belts that include shoulder harnesses on all passenger seats.
It's also calling for underwater escape training for all flight crews engaged in commercial seaplane operations.
The board says those two recommendations would improve the odds that anyone who survives a float plane crash would get out alive.
"In an emergency, you only have seconds to orient yourself and escape and the right training can make the difference between life and death," said Wendy Tadros, chairwoman of the safety board.
"Pilots with underwater egress training stand a better chance of helping themselves and their passengers survive."
As for shoulder harnesses, she said: "Too many passengers survive a float plane crash only to drown because they have suffered some kind of head trauma and can't get out of the aircraft."
The safety board says the two new recommendations follow two others made previously aimed at making float planes safer.
In its investigation into a fatal 2009 float plane crash that killed six passengers in Lyall Harbour, B.C., the board made a recommendation for pop-out windows and doors to better facilitate egress, and another for personal flotation devices for all passengers.
The board says while Transport Canada has committed to making flotation devices mandatory it has yet to require float plane doors and windows to come off easily after a crash, and it calls on the federal agency to implement all the recommendations.
"When a float plane crashes on water, approximately 70 per cent of crash victims die from drowning. All four board recommendations are aimed at changing that reality," said Tadros.
"Transport Canada needs to treat all four recommendations with the seriousness they deserve, and take every measure to prevent more from dying in otherwise survivable accidents."