Tam-tams participants quickly became eyewitnesses to a private Cessna airplane safely landing on Avenue du Parc near the George-Étienne Cartier monument at 4 p.m. Sunday. Bill Berenholc, 49, owner of the family-run Lester’s Deli, had asked the pilot to take him and his ten-year-old son, Sammy, flying above Montreal to get a bird’s eye view of the city and of the family deli. Engine failure soon turned the outing into a terrifying close-call.
“We lost power to our engine and we came down on Parc Avenue,” Berenholc said. “We had no choice; we were over downtown Montreal with big buildings. There was very little open space, this was it. We were just looking out to find a street to get down as fast as we can. There were cars on the road and people, but we got lucky and we even got the green light. How hard is it to get a green light on Parc!”
The two passengers and pilot suffered no injuries, and the Cessna, which hit a pole during its descent, managed to land while only suffering damage to the left wing. No pedestrians, bicyclists, or cars were hurt.
According to Robert Mansueto, officer of Media Relations with the Montreal Police Department, “[The police] weren’t advised ahead of time that it was going to land on Parc Avenue. Obviously if that was the case, we would have tried to stop traffic and advise pedestrians and cyclists in the area. As you know, there was Tam-tams going on and so there were a lot of people in the area.”
Eyewitnesses said that there was very light traffic during the landing and that the cars formed a ‘Y’ to avoid the oncoming plane.
“It’s a miracle that no one was hurt on the plane and on the ground,” Mansueto said. “It probably was the best case scenario for this type of event to happen.”
Berenholc’s daughter rushed to the scene after receiving a call from her distraught father.
“I came here as fast as I could because my dad’s voice was panicked and he said that ‘we had an emergency crash landing on Parc Avenue and we need a ride, come get us,” said Candice Berenholc, third-year Commerce student at Dawson College.
Upon arriving at the scene, the police closed off the area and had investigators from Transport Canada come to do an investigation to find out why the plane went down.
Jay Cochrane, a vendor at Tam-tams, was an eyewitness to the entire incident.
“Everyone from all over the mountain came running down to see what was going on,” Cochrane said. “The guy selling next to me ran down and grabbed onto the back wing of the plane to slow it down. He was just sort of pulling it down. Then he just came back up here and kept on selling after that.”
Geremi Vespa, second year Masters student in engineering, was with friends at Tam-tams when he witnessed the plane touch down.
“The plane was perfectly quiet when it landed,” said Vespa. “The pilot and everyone inside looked really calm. There was the smell of leaking gas in the air, but no one seemed to care.”
The pilot has worked for Aerogram, an aerial media company, and has flown banners for Berenholc’s family deli on special occasions.
“The pilot does most of the banner flying around Montreal,” Bill Berenholc said, “And he does some for Lester’s deli also, he flies our banners around for special events. I asked him to take us up one day and just show us what it’s like up there because I’ve never flown over Montreal.”
While reflecting over the situation, Bill Berenholc said, “All in all, I would say that it’s one of my luckiest days.”