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Victim in floatplane crash awarded $540,000

Nebraska man and wife continue to suffer, hope to put incident behind them



A Nebraska man says no amount of money will completely heal the injuries he and his wife sustained in a floatplane crash on Green Lake in 2000, but he is looking forward to putting the incident behind him and moving on with his life.

Kenneth Carpenter, one of four sightseers involved in the floatplane crash, was awarded the equivalent of $540,000 Cdn, this week, significantly less than the almost $1.3 million he was asking for. His wife Janice previously settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.

Carpenter and his wife were taking a glacier tour with another couple when the accident occurred on Aug. 17, 2000. All of the passengers were in Whistler for an insurance and personal investment conference, and the 20-minute air tours were being offered as part of the package.

The floatplane belonging to Whistler Air Service crashed into the water shortly after takeoff. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada investigation failed to find a specific cause for the crash, but ruled that the accident was likely caused by a variety of factors, including a leaky float, a heavy take-off weight, an improper flap setting and the direction of the plane in relation to the wind.

According to the report, the pilot recognized that the airspeed was lower than usual within seconds after takeoff, and the plane bounced several times before it got airborne. Realizing that the plane would not clear the trees at the end of the lake, pilot David Down turned the float plane right, heading 90 degrees into the direction of the wind towards Wedge Mountain. After determining that he would not be able to climb out of the turn, he turned right once again. At that point the plane stalled and dropped about 60 feet down into the water. The right float and wingtip hit first, twisting the plane sideways, and both floats were torn off. The aircraft sank nose first into about 15 feet of water.

The pilot and the other two passengers managed to escape shortly after the plane started sinking. The Carpenters had more difficulty. Kenneth remembers being tangled up in headphone wires, and trying to get his wife to swim downwards to the doors instead of up into the back of the plane. He wrote a story about the incident called "God’s 3 Miracles in 3 Minutes".

The first miracle was when he managed to get his wife to swim down towards the doors. The second was that the door, which he had been struggling with seconds earlier, was now open, and his wife was lying in the doorway.

He picked her up, and pushed her out and up towards the surface. He followed, swimming as hard as he could. He surfaced close to Jan, where they were rescued by the third miracle, a pontoon boat that was on the lake that had sped to the crash site.

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