MONTREAL – For half a century, local legend said a plane had plunged into Quebec’s Lac-Simon and slipped into one of the 200-metre-deep crevasses along the bottom of the lake.
Others believed the seaplane that vanished in November 1957 had been swallowed by the monster that was said to lurk beneath the waves.
These stories circulated in the community until November 2007 when an amateur diver dispelled them by locating the wreckage on the lake’s bed, 50 metres below the surface.
A Quebec coroner released more details Wednesday of the crash that killed four men and their hunting dog.
Authorities have now raised the wreck, determined the factors that doomed the small aircraft and identified the remains of three of the four hunters on board.
But the brother-in-law of Tony Chiavazza, the man who was never found, still hopes someone will confirm the fate of his close friend.
“I was best buddies with Tony, cripes,” Rene Simard said Wednesday before recalling the impact the 28-year-old’s disappearance had on his late wife – Chiavazza’s sister – and her parents.
“It was a big problem in their hearts, so they would avoid talking about it.”
In May, Coroner Catherine Rudel-Tessier identified the remains of pilot Gaetan Deshaies and passengers Philippe Ouimet and Philippe Hamel.
Rudel-Tessier concluded in a report Wednesday that a combination of poor visibility from snow showers, the wrong fuel and a weak battery likely caused the plane to fall from the sky.
After the RC-3 Seabee vanished over Lac-Simon, Simard said he scoured the lake, about 75 kilometres northeast of Ottawa, by boat for a week.
The only clue search parties found were the remains of the hunters’ dog, which had floated to shore.
For decades, he never thought he would find out what happened.
Then, in May 2008, Simard joined relatives and loved ones of the other men and watched as provincial police pulled the plane’s cabin out of the lake. He had hoped it would finally bring some closure.
“It was very painful, especially when they brought all that stuff up,” the 83-year-old said in an interview from his home in the Montreal suburb of Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue.
Nelson Barnes, a municipal councillor in Lac-Simon, said the aircraft’s discovery ended decades of myths among cottagers and residents who live near the 18-kilometre-long lake.
He said very few of the legends were ever taken seriously.
“There were lots of people who said there was a big monster in Lac-Simon and some even believed that the monster swallowed the airplane,” Barnes said.
“There were all sorts of weird stories.”
Simard said Chiavazza’s ill-fated journey was the only time he ever flew on a plane.
They hunted deer together for years, but Simard decided to skip their trip in the fall of 1957 because Chiavazza wanted to go so far into the bush they would have to fly in.
“It was just bad luck, I think,” he said.