By Marcia Love
Police are trying to determine the reason an airplane was reported to be in distress on Sunday night.
The Maple Creek RCMP and fire department were notified of a 9-1-1 call regarding a pilot in distress just after 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 13. The search soon expanded to involve police in Medicine Hat and resulted in a section of the Trans-Canada Highway near Medicine Hat being shut down for a brief period of time that night.
However, the plane was not located, and it is unknown who the pilot was who was reported to be in distress.
The call came in from an amateur radio operator in the Maple Creek area. The individual was reported to be working construction on the road near Nekaneet First Nation when he heard the transmission. “(He) overheard what he thought was a mayday or a distress call from a plane that was basically in need or having an emergency and probably needed to make an emergency landing,” explained Insp. Tim McGough of the Medicine Hat Police.
Emergency responders from Maple Creek travelled out to the Trans-Canada Highway west of town, but later returned to the fire hall as they were unsure of an exact location.
Another call then came in and it was reported the plane was near Box Springs Road north of Redcliff. Police in that area then became involved in the response.
The Trans-Canada Highway on both sides of Medicine Hat was closed at about 8:30 p.m. for a possible emergency plane landing. It was re-opened within the hour.
Shortly after that, firefighters in Maple Creek were called out again.
“We got a call there was a plane down a mile-and-a-half south of Maple Creek,” said Fire Chief Keith Stork. “We searched around the airport and south, but no one saw anything come down.”
They searched for an hour and found nothing.
“We did our due diligence with Nav Canada, and we tried to determine whether there were any commercial planes in the area having problems,” said McGough.
No problems were found regarding any commercial flights in the area, and the search then turned to the possibility of a smaller, privately-owned plane in distress. Private planes do not have to submit a flight plan, although it is recommended. No flight plans had been submitted in the area.
One commercial flight altered its course to stay away from the area while the search was underway.
“We looked around the Medicine Hat area and there was nothing that happened or landed in this area,” McGough stated.
Police in the city called off their search at about 9:30 p.m.
“We have not been able to determine that there was any plane in distress at all,” stated Sgt. John Phipps of the Maple Creek RCMP. “We have no idea if this was something that happened while in mid-air and then resolved itself and they carried on and they didn’t update anybody or if somebody was fabricating it.”
Maple Creek RCMP continue to look into the matter.