The BC Ambulance critical care team had been acutely focused, almost obsessed, with finding the plane that disappeared off the radar in November 2017.
Critical care paramedic Randy MacLeod and Tim Franke, one of the pilots, caught a glint of something on the ground that “just wasn’t supposed to be there.”
MacLeod had been staring down from the window of the Bell 412 helicopter on the same side as Franke. They immediately turned around and all four crewmembers began searching. It took a couple of passes and then they saw it.
“We were pretty sure, immediately, that we had found what we were looking for,” said MacLeod. Heather Blomgren, his critical care paramedic partner, began filming the area and marking the altitude and longitude descriptors to relay the information.
What they found was the crash site of a 1963 single-engine Mooney aircraft, missing for almost 10 months when pilot Dominic Neron, 28, and his girlfriend Ashley Bourgeault, 31, were last seen taking off from Penticton airport headed to Edmonton.
Every time this team flew through the area, they said, “we are going to find that plane today,” says Blomgren. “Randy, Tim and I were really concentrated.”
“Not a day went by that we didn’t think about the plane,” agrees MacLeod. But he also calls it “one in a million” that they saw it. The wreckage was buried in dense forest canopy with high undergrowth. “If you were walking up to it, you’d actually kick it before you found it,” he says.
It may be why, despite being only 500 metres from the Trans-Canada Highway in Glacier National Park, and after a nine day official search, the plane was never found.
However, Dominic Neron’s sister, Tammy, never gave up looking for her brother. She has since started a support network to help other families searching for missing people. Tammy has also connected with BCEHS paramedic Randy MacLeod. They both feel air ambulance paramedics can play a crucial role in finding those considered “vanished.”
“We fly through BC terrain that often doesn’t get flown through, on non-regular routes, every week,” MacLeod said. This type of travel is a crucial part of being a critical care paramedic providing rapid air response.
Tammy Neron, this week, expressed her appreciation for what they do. “I am forever grateful for everyone on board that helicopter on September 10.”
Sept. 10 was Tammy’s birthday. Her only wish that day was that the plane be found.