The New Era - All about Sweet Home since 1929

Watching news happen right before my wondering eyes


August 1, 2017

Last Tuesday, July 25, we got a call from someone telling us that that a float plane would be towing someone on an inner tube at Foster Lake.

I had just arrived at the office to wait for the newspaper to arrive from the press.

The boss mentioned the call. and said we didn’t know much else about it. We didn’t know precisely when. I was thinking maybe it would be some Youtuber planning to put a video on the web or something.

The boss asked (right, a boss asking, weird huh?) if I wanted to go grab a photo, something we call “wild art,” interesting stand-alone photos.

This did not sound like real important news, but it was interesting – and weird, which made it start climbing my news value meter. We don’t see float planes too often in Foster Lake. I can’t remember seeing any out there, although our advertising sales rep said she’s seen that one in the lake before this summer. And we certainly don’t see airplanes pulling folks around the lake in an inner tube.

So I told the boss, “Sure, I can read my book just as easily at Shea Point as I can here.” It looked like the paper wouldn’t be in for an hour and a half, so I had time to kill.

I headed down to Shea Point and planted myself on a bench where I could see the whole lake and maybe catch sight of this float plane and inner tube rider.

I covered a lot of pages of one of “The Expanse” novels while I waited, periodically looking up for this plane.

Time was fast approaching for me to head back and pick up the papers to deliver to stores around town. I turned off my book, stood up, opened my phone to hack the Shea Point Ingress portal (one of those phone app games based on location – sort of like Pokemon Go but way better) one more time before I left, and a bunch of vans pulled up.

People poured out of the vehicles with iPads, cameras and notebooks.

A man stepped onto the deck at Shea Point and started talking to them. I happened to look off to the east and I saw the float plane pulling away from the old road headed east on the lake.

This is it, I thought. It must be some kind of big deal, a daredevil Youtube channel maybe. All these people must be here and involved somehow in some crazier, bigger thing than I had imagined.

I figured the plane would come back around across the front of Shea Point where I could get a nice shot of it in the water.

And the man on the deck continued to talk.

About... geology.

It was some kind of field trip and had nothing to do with the float plane.

I got to hear about how Marks Ridge was formed. That was pretty cool, a little bit of free education. But their presence obviously had no connection with the float plane.

I hacked Shea Point again and checked on the plane’s progress. It was approaching Calkins Park. I just hoped it wasn’t a trip from Shea Point to Calkins Park, as the plane disappeared toward the dock at the end of the lake. But it soon came back out and headed across north across the east end of the lake. I knew I wasn’t going to make it back to the The New Era in time for deliveries.

I called the boss and asked him to take care of my first couple of stops for me, the big ones where there is high demand. He said he’d take care of it.

I hacked Shea Point and continued my free geology lesson, and soon the plane was headed back across the lake, bee-lining for Shea Point.

Then it finally started coming close enough to be within range of the camera equipment I had with me. I took a couple of shots, but the plane still wasn’t quite close enough. I waited a little, then took a couple more photos.

I could see the girl on the inner tube had fallen into the lake. A woman was standing on the right pontoon, and the plane began turning to pick up the girl.

I took a couple of photos of that too, but I really didn’t want a photo of the girl in the water. I wanted a photo of the plane and the girl doing their thing – and I still needed them closer. I lowered my camera, left my geology lesson and moved further to the east to better frame the shot when the plane got closer.

Then the plane tipped forward, its nose in the water.

I thought that was pretty weird. First thought was the rather stupid idea that this was some kind of float plane trick. Then I realized that this was real, that these folks in the plane must be in trouble.

They appeared to be doing all right, though. A boat was quickly moving into the area to help. I don’t know who the first emergency responder was on the scene, but I quickly heard the approaching siren.

And this thing had just turned into a proper news story. It’s pretty rare in this business to see that kind of story unfold in front of you, but it just had!

I texted the boss: “The thing just flipped over forward.”

My phone rang. “Stay there,” the boss told me. “We’ll deal with the papers later.”

I kept shooting as boaters rescued the trio of people stranded by the capsizing airplane and towed their plane back to Shea Point.

They were unharmed. The plane was damaged.

I was busy processing what I was looking at. After watching the plane flip, my first thought was that towing a tuber with an airplane is pretty dumb.

Then I thought about it some more. I would have done that in a heartbeat, and I am just as dumb. I could see clearly why we shouldn’t do that sort of thing.

I stayed through the slow process of taking the plane out of the water – and skipped the City Council meeting while my boss got stuck delivering all the newspapers.

I hacked Shea Point again.

And I kept thinking about how dumb this idea really wasn’t – not if you really think about it.

Passenger Cindy Blondin told me that most of the responses she’s had to it have been that it was a kick-*** thing to do.

It really is. I’d still do it. I think I’d have a blast. Can’t blame these folks for doing it.

Boats run four or six times faster than the plane was traveling. The girl riding on the tube had a great time, but she didn’t think they were going fast enough.

The whole thing happened in slow motion, and no one was every really in danger. It’s no dumber than a Sunday drive, and it’s a whole lot smarter than those of us who like to drive too fast or run jet skis across wake at 55 mph.

Honestly, the incident was quite minor, and had it been a boat, it wouldn’t have been a big news story. But this was a float plane, a float plane pulling a tuber and a capsized float plane that had been pulling a tuber, so it got big real quick.

I just felt bad the plane got hurt.

I hacked Shea Point and the new Welcome to Sweet Home portal and left wondering what I need to do to get a pilot’s license.


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