The road was surveyed from Gypsonville to Grand Rapids and the contract was let. The contractor brought in quite a few Indians to hand cut the right of way before the machinery arrived to start the construction.
By April 24th (1960). The line was cut through and the men laid off. Lambair were asked to come to Grand Rapids and pick up these men and take south to Fisher River. I flew INN, a Norseman, to Moose Lake and dropped off a load of groceries for the store then flew on to Grand Rapids, picked up seven men with their packsacks and headed for Fisher Bay. This was the nearest landing spot to Fisher River. I flew over Fisher Bay and had a look at the ice. It didn't like the look of the ice so I flew around the area looking for a field that I could land on. INN was on wheel skis. When I looked over the area every field I looked at was a sea of mud. The road was to crooked to land on so I flew back to Fisher Bay to have another look at the ice. I asked one of my passengers if this is where the planes usually land and he assured me that this was the place.
I decided to try a landing with enough power on that if I started to sink I could take off again. As I touched down everything seemed ok but the slower I got the more drag seemed to be on the wheels until I started to break through the ice. By that time it was too late. I cut the power and the poor old airplane just settled down and slowly sunk through the ice. I wasn't too far from shore so it just settled on the bottom. The wings were about a foot or so above the ice. The tail of the airplane was up on the ice but the engine was under water hissing away and blowing bubbles.
Everyone got out with their gear and walked to shore. I said to my trusty Indian guide, "I thought you said this is where the airplanes always land". He said "Yes they do but never this time of year" Then they all disappeared like smoke from a campfire and I was left alone to contemplate the mess I was in.
I walked to shore and got a ride down to Fisher Branch where my cousin Raymond Lamb was station manager for the CNR. I phoned Grace Lake and passed on the bad news. It was pretty bad news as I was suppose to leave then next morning for Churchill and Chesterfield Inlet to start, along with my brothers Jack and Donald in the Beaver EYZ, to haul Eskimo children back home from residential school.
After my call my brothers Donald and Connie immediately started gathering up salvage gear and loading up a car to drive to Winnipeg. Once there they rented a truck and picked up more salvage gear, a wet diving suit, chain block, cable plus what ever else they thought we might need then drove up to Fisher Bay. They had to bring up some food to tide us over during the salvage job so we could stay on the job.
I spent the night with Raymond at Fisher Branch. The next day Donald and Connie picked me up and we proceeded to Fisher Bay. As soon as we arrived I took a walk over the area to see where I might be able to take off once we got the airplane out of the water. I also spotted a Caterpillar D2 tractor parked along side an old shed. It looked like it hadn't run for a few years.
The only place which I thought would be suitable for a take off was in an old school ground. The trouble was the yard wasn't that big and there was a large, deep old basement hole in the center of the yard, where the school once stood, that I would have to maneuver around. I would be taking off towards the lake and I had it in the back of my mind that if I wasn't airborne by the time I got to the lake shore I probably have enough airspeed on that I should be able to plane on the thin ice until I had enough airspeed to keep flying. That is if the engine kept running of course. The yard was also badly overgrown with hay and thistle.
There was an old caboose near by that I was able to get the use of where we could sleep while we were there. It was pretty dirty and hadn't been used for years. We cleaned it up a bit and moved our gear in.
As soon as we arrived on site Donald put on the wet suit and dove down to attach cables to the two legs of the airplane the water we pretty cold and he came out shivering and ran up to the caboose to put on dry cloths and warm up. We strung a tow cable to the shore. In the meantime Connie, the Cat. expert, went to work on the D2. It wasn't long before we heard the pup motor running then with a great cloud of black smoke and soot he had the main engine running. He drove it over to where we wanted to haul INN out of the water and onto shore. After clearing away some brush and garbage along the shore Connie hooked up the cable and was ready to start pulling.
The next step was to cut ice from around the wing struts and make a clear path to shore. We worked on this for quite a while. We didn't want to damage the airplane any more than it was. Usually more damage is done during salvage than the crash it self. As Connie started to pull the airplane along we saw that the tail was going to sink into the water. We didn't want this to happen so we tied a couple of empty gas drums to the tail to hold it up. Then started pulling again. As Connie pulled the airplane along Donald and I kept cutting ice ahead to make an open path through the ice. By evening we had INN on the shore and hauled her along closer to the caboose where we could work of the engine to drain the water and patch up any holes in the fuselage that were made by ice.
The first thing we did was take off the engine cowlings and started to dismantle the ignition harness to get the water out. They are sealed units but water still managed to seep in. The magnetos were full of water so they had to be taken apart and dried out. The carburetor was also full of water but this was easy to drain and dry out because there were drain plugs located for that purpose. All the spark plugs were removed and dried out and cleaned and while they were out we pulled the engine through to get any water out of the cylinders that was in there. We found an old airtight heater laying around so we set that up under the engine and had a slow fire going which helped to dry things out.
When things looked like they were dry and water free as we could make it we put everything back together but left the cowlings off and I started the engine. It ran pretty good at a slow idle but when I advanced the throttle it backfired and wouldn't spool up. We took the ignition harness apart again and were able to get more water out. We had to do this two or three times until the engine ran fairly good. We put everything back together and I started up and taxied over to the start of my takeoff run. Things went along pretty good bouncing along over the rough school ground. But as soon as I tried to put on full throttle then it really backfired and wouldn't put out enough RPM to take off. I taxied back to the caboose and we went to work again and were able to get more water out.
Again I taxied back to start my takeoff run. I opened the throttle and started my takeoff. Just as I was ready to lift off, right at the waters edge, it started to really backfire and loose power. I could see that it wanted to keep running so I completed my takeoff, as if I had any choice as I was over the lake by this time. I continued along and set course for home. I soon realized that the rate it was burning fuel I would never make it home. I decided to head for Ashern and get some more fuel. I landed there in a farmers field just south of town. The Natural resources man saw me land and came out to see what was going on.
I enquired if there was any avgas available. He thought there might be some at the Shell dealer so he drove me there and we picked up two drums of fuel. After we fueled up I thanked him and was on my way again. I soon realized that I would never make it to The Pas at the rate I was using up my fuel so decided to head for Dauphin. The engine still wasn't running very good. The ignition harness was still damp and shorting out which made it run pretty rough.
After landing at Dauphin I phoned home to tell them where I was and what my plans were. I refueled and parked the airplane for the night. ------------ met me and drove me into town to the Dauphin hotel. On the way he asked if I would speak at the Chamber of Commerce supper meeting that night. I wasn't in much of a mood to do anything of the sort after the harrowing last few hours but did consent and we drove to the meeting. He introduced me and I made a short rundown of Lambair and what we were doing. We had supper and he drove me back to the hotel.
While I was working my way home Donald and Connie gathered up our equipment, drove to Winnipeg then on to The Pas. They beat me home and Donald and Jack took off for Churchill.
Early the next morning I took off and flew as far at Swan River where I again had to land for more fuel then off again for The Pas where I landed at Clearwater Lake airport. Dad and Stew McRory, who was flying a DC3 for CPA, on the run to Winnipeg, were waiting for me. It was May 4th. And I was suppose to be at Churchill to start flying school children home from the residential school at Chesterfield Inlet.
Ron Davie and the maintenance crew got busy and changed the engine and gave the airplane a thorough check. A few tears and nicks had to be repaired but on the whole old INN survived the ordeal pretty good. By May 16th. With a nice new engine Ron and I headed for Churchill where Jack and Donald with Beaver EYZ were waiting for us. We were weather bound at Churchill until the next day when it cleared up enough for us to head north. We got as far as Eskimo Point where we had to land and again wait out the weather.
On May 22 we both left Eskimo Point and arrived at Chesterfield at 11 am. We had a meeting with father Coutremache and set up a schedule of which children we wanted to move first. It was a very busy 5 days of flying. The weather was good and the days long. Ron and I put in fifty two hours and 50 minutes in the five days. As my old Granny Lamb told me one day "A good job well done". I had just finished digging the footings for the new CN freight shed in The Pas with a drag line.