By Marcia Love
A mayday call that sent emergency crews in Maple Creek and Medicine Hat in search of a plane in distress on Sept. 13 was a hoax, police say.
Two Medicine Hat men were arrested in the city on Monday night in connection with the incident.
On the morning of Sept. 14, Medicine Hat Police responded to a report of a break and enter at a hangar at the Medicine Hat Airport. Two planes appeared to have been tampered with, and a 12 gauge shotgun, ammunition, air compressor, camera and other documents from within the hanger were stolen, along with a 2002 GMC truck and a 1999 Ford truck.
Upon receiving this information, Maple Creek RCMP informed Medicine Hat Police that while en route to suspicious burning activity reported in Cypress Hills Park they had checked two individuals in trucks south of Maple Creek. At the time of the stop, the vehicles were not known to have been stolen and the males were sent on their way.
The two men were located in Medicine Hat with one of the stolen trucks, as well as other stolen items including the shotgun.
As a result, Tyrell Zacharias, 25, and Tyler Klutskow, 32, have been charged with a total of nine criminal code charges each, including break and enter, theft of auto, possession of a dangerous weapon, possession of stolen property and possession of a stolen firearm. Both men were remanded in custody and are scheduled to appear in provincial court today.
At about 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 13, Maple Creek RCMP, EMS and fire department were notified of a pilot believed to be in distress in the Maple Creek area. The muffled “mayday” call was overheard by a construction crew working on a road near Nekaneet First Nation through their hand-held radio transmission in their vehicle.
Emergency responders travelled west on the Trans-Canada Highway in search of the plane, but found nothing and had no more information on its location.
The plane was then reported to possibly be required to make an emergency landing on the Trans-Canada Highway near Medicine Hat. As a result, police there closed the highway leading into the city for a brief period of time that night.
The Maple Creek Fire Department then travelled south of town and also searched the airport when another call came in that the plane was a mile-and-a-half south of town.
Nav Canada became involved, and the Royal Canadian Air Force sent a search and rescue aircraft from Winnipeg. All logged commercial planes and smaller, privately-owned planes in the area were accounted for, however it was possible an unlogged aircraft may have been in distress, police said. But no plane or pilot in distress was ever located.
Police said the investigation into the offence of causing a false alarm relating to the radio emergency transmission is ongoing and further charges may be laid.