Lost Seabee Found After 50 Years

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CF-HPK - Sketch by Dan Scoville

Drawing by Dan Scoville

Hunting expedition ends in tragedy
Last flight of CF-HPKOn November 21st 1957, the Republic RC-3 Seabee piloted by Gaetan Deshaies made three trips between Lac du Diable (Devil's Lake) and Schryer Lake to bring a party back from a hunting expedition. The first trip returned cargo and game. The second trip brought four of the members back, and necessitated a precautionary landing on Lac Simon to await clear weather. Conditions that day were windy and snow squalls reduced visibility to zero at times.   The final trip included the last three members of the hunting party: Tony Chivazza, Philippe Ouimet, Louis Hamel and their hunting dog. The plane and its occupants were lost on a crash landing in Lac Simon. Evidence confirming the loss in Lac Simon included the discovery of the dog on the shore of the lake.  An autopsy performed on the dog revealed the cause of death to be coronary hemorrhaging, a sign the animal had suffered a deadly impact. A child reported seeing a plane performing pirouettes in the sky that day, and local farmers reported hearing a strange sound similar to a muffled impact.   A substantial search and rescue operation was conducted to locate the aircraft which focused on Lac Simon.  Even with the use of electronic search equipment, grappling hooks and SCUBA divers, the plane and its occupants could not be found. Over the past fifty years the mysterious disappearance of the Seabee aircraft turned to legend in the Lac Simon area.

The Discovery
Sidesonar image by Dan Scoville The discovery of the remains of the aircraft was made in 2007 utilizing sophisticated side scan sonar technology with the assistance of Dan Scoville. The sonar imagery showed a substantial debris field surrounding the wreck, demonstrating the severity of the impact. This debris field includes the port passenger and forward doors, two of the occupant's bodies, a rifle, the port sponson (wing tip float) and other items. The Seabee was found in deep water, well beyond recreational limits for SCUBA diving of 135 feet. These depths necessitated the use of advanced diving techniques to confirm the identity of the plane.  Morin and Koberstein made use of mixed gas diving techniques involving gas mixtures of helium, nitrogen and oxygen as well as rebreather technology to perform dives on the wreck.  A remote operated vehicle developed by Scoville was used to map the debris field and to identify, locate items, and document the site using video. The registration letters were clearly visible on the body of the aircraft confirming its identification.

Exploring the Wrecked Aircraft
CF-HPKIn the deep and cold waters where the plane rests, there is no visible light to illuminate the plane. The remote operated vehicle uses artificial lighting to bring back images of the aircraft. The plane rests upright on the bottom and shows many signs of the violence of the impact. The cabin is crushed by the weight of the engine bearing down upon impact, with the roof pressed to the instrument panel. The fuselage is curled upward with several kinks at key structural junctures. One such crimp immediately aft of the front seats seals the passenger section, entombing the two rear passengers within. The tail is arched upward similar to a scorpion's tail. Moving closer to the pilot's seat, the port door is open, the glass is gone. A rifle rests on the pilot's seat, balanced on the edge with the stock protruding from the fuselage. The starboard wing shows many signs of structural damage with the missing sponson and strut, multiple bends, and misaligned flap and aileron. The sponson and strut were located 150 feet away in the debris field. The propeller is in perfect condition and resting in a vertical position, both signs that it may not have been turning during impact. The starboard and forward doors are missing and are located over a hundred feet away. Two of the occupants of the aircraft were thrown a distance from the aircraft.  The boots they were wearing are still visible along with the belt and knives that they wore for the hunt.


Wreck Detectives
Guy Morin and Chris KobersteinThe discovery is the culmination of intensive research efforts by Morin (left). The search began well over a decade ago with archived materials of the period including newspapers and Government of Canada files. Weather data from the period was obtained through Environment Canada to elucidate how the floating debris came to rest where it was found. Weather modeling of floating debris provided useful clues on where the wreck may be located. A probability model was developed to organize the search effort. Interviews were conducted with individuals familiar with the events of the time to obtain added information. The field work was equally demanding due to the underwater topography of the lake. Lac Simon has depths of over 300 feet over much of its area necessitating extended cabling for the sonar probe, and further requires careful navigation to contend with the underwater pinnacles and narrow fissures. The underwater topography has an additional challenge in creating illusions for the sonar in the forms of rocky outcroppings, clay shelves and other elements such as trees and logs. The search was challenging because of the nature of the target. Airplanes are known to be very difficult to detect, and may offer a very slight signature on the sonar record. This requires careful analysis of the sonar record, and increases the number of targets that must be investigated. The remote operated vehicle built by Scoville and utilized by the team was key in performing the extensive target investigation and providing the added knowledge to improve target interpretation.

Aircraft Discovery Team
Guy Morin started diving and exploring the rivers and lakes in his youth. This interest led to an extensive education in cave, wreck and "technical" diving to explore beyond 300 feet using custom gas mixtures and equipment. Professional interests derived from his degrees in Mechanical and Electrical engineering has allowed Guy to construct diver propulsion vehicles and rebreathers to enhance and extend the diving experience. He owns and operates a sidescan sonar used to discover the wreck of the Republic RC-3 Seabee. He has a passion for researching archives for leads and insights into wrecks. Guy currently engages in consulting work in the field of integrated circuit design for telecommunications and space applications.
Dan Scoville and ROVChris Koberstein (above photos right) is an experienced cave, "technical" and rebreather diver. Chris uses sophisticated rebreather diving equipment to explore depths to over 300 feet. He provides key diving expertise for the expedition and confirmed the presence of wreckage belonging to the Republic RC-3 Seabee. Chris endeavors as an aircraft maintenance technician with Air Canada.

Dan Scoville (left photo) is an experienced cave and "technical" diver and uses custom gas mixtures to dive to depths of over 300 feet. Dan pioneered the development of a new class of remotely operated vehicles (ROV) and endeavors with Hydroacoustics Inc where he manages the ROV  product line. Utilizing his side scan sonar and remote operated vehicle, he has collaborated in the discovery of several significant historical shipwrecks in lake Ontario.

Contact info:

Guy Morin - Email:  gm9195@hotmail.com - Tel. 613-276-7290
Chris Koberstein - Email:  ckoberstein@aol.com - Tel. 450-458-3590
Dan Scoville - Email:  stealthdive@aol.com - Tel  585-261-3793

For additional information and images of the Seabee aircraft on the bottom of Lac Simon, visit their website:


Thank you very much Guy Morin, for permitting this website to use the report and images from this expedition!

Divers find plane, ending 50-year mystery

Childhood story about lake monster spurred Ottawa man to begin search

Geoff Nixon, The Ottawa Citizen

Published: Sunday, November 18, 2007

When Guy Morin spotted the five letters painted on the tail of a sea plane lying on the bottom of Lac Simon last month, he knew he'd found what he'd spent more than a decade looking for.

The five letters, CF-HPK, were the call sign of a plane that went missing nearly 50 years ago.

"It was like a rising," says Mr. Morin, 39, an electrical engineer who grew up in Gatineau and has lived in Ottawa for the past 12 years. "We knew we were on the spot."

Three hunters -- Tony Chivazza, Louis Hamel, Philippe Ouimet -- and their pilot, Gaëtan Deshaies, were aboard the Republic RC-3 SeaBee when it was last seen on Nov. 21, 1957.

Now, it's been found, sitting over 60 metres below the surface of the Papineau-area lake, covered with decades' worth of silt and sand. It's hoped the plane will hold the answers to its disappearance almost 50 years ago.

The men had been on their way home from Lac du Diable, where they had been hunting. All told, seven men had taken part in the excursion. Next up, a trip to Schryer Lake to celebrate their success. One problem: the plane could only carry four passengers at one time.

Mr. Morin's second-cousin, Roger Guénette, was among four men who'd already made the trip back to Schryer Lake.

"He suffered from survivor's guilt," Mr. Morin says of his cousin. "He lived 24 years after the event and he was 32 years old when the event happened."

According to records, the weather was less than ideal for a flight. There were high winds and heavy waves on local lakes, and snow squalls that, at times, made it impossible to see. It was so bad, Mr. Guénette's flight even landed on Lac Simon to wait it out.

When the flight carrying the remaining three hunters and the pilot failed to arrive, an urgent search was launched. Transport Canada used 16 planes in the effort, but all they found were two hats and the body of a dog that had been on the plane.

Mr. Morin was a young boy when he first learned about the missing plane.

His family had a cottage near Lac Simon, and one summer his uncle told him the nearby lake contained a monster that once swallowed up a plane and four men.

His parents confirmed part of his uncle's account -- yes, the lake had been the rumored site where the men had disappeared. They also told him about the family's connection to the mystery.

As he got older, Mr. Morin took up scuba diving, becoming increasingly skilled at water searches. It crossed his mind several times, he says, that he might one day find the missing plane.

Mr. Morin eventually made friends in the diving community, whom he enlisted to help him look for the missing plane that had so captured his attention.

Chris Koberstein of Hudson, Que., and Dan Scoville of Rochester, New York, helped him refine his search, using better technology and more sophisticated techniques in his more than 10-year quest to find the sunken wreck. They used a combination of individual dives, a deep-sea robot equipped with a camera and, eventually, sonar to plumb the lake's vast depths.

On Oct. 2, they got their big break -- a chunk of the plane's main strut. Then, they found the plane itself.

"We hit the wing and then we could see the entire plane," says Mr. Morin. "We started illuminating the plane, sweeping back and forth, and then we realized the thing is intact -- in one piece."

And they found the remains of three men. A pair of boots was all they could find of the fourth man.

The plane is largely intact, with the controls and gauges still in the cockpit. A rifle is tucked beside the pilot's seat.

Mr. Morin and his friends will not say exactly where the wreck is, for fear that someone else will come along and disturb the site before it can be dealt with by the authorities.

On Wednesday, a short segment about their search is scheduled to air on the Discovery Channel's popular Daily Planet show -- exactly 50 years to the day that the plane went down.

Geoff Nixon, The Ottawa Citizen

Original article at www.canada.com


The Seabee in this story was s/n 576, registered CF-HPK on Canadian Civil Aircraft Register.  This Seabee was rolled off the production line at Republic Aviation Corporation, Long Island, NY, USA, in March 1947.  On  March 28, 1947, s/n 576 was delivered from Republic to O'Connor Aircraft Company, Albany, New York, USA.  Later it was obviously sold to Canada.  Any further information on the history of this Seabee will be highly appreciated!

On May 14, 2008, CF-HPK and the remains of the occupants were recovered.









Lac Simon, Quebec, Canada
14 May 2008
Photo: courtesy of Guy Morin

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Updated: 2016-10-31

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