Emergency crews found no signs of a crash, but there's also no obvious explanation of what the man saw.
“As I looked up, I seen an explosion,” said Tim Slaunwhite, who made the 911 call.
It was dusk, and Slaunwhite had just finished feeding a stray neighborhood cat. Moments later, he was on the phone with a 911 operator, convinced he was watching a disaster unfold in the sky.
“Bank right, bank left, then straighten it out. And then watch it and basically see him lose it for about 10 seconds in a straight flight-path, and then all of a sudden, it busts in two and then catches on fire,” he said.
Emergency crews descended on the area quickly. Search teams were dispatched, and a check with Navigation Canada confirmed there were no missing or overdue aircraft. The military says it was not conducting exercises in the area, and officials say hoax calls about plane crashes are exceptionally rare.
“When we get reports of plane crashes, they're usually plane crashes,” said deputy chief Roy Hollett of the Halifax Regional Fire Department.
Search crews found nothing, but Slaunwhite insists he knows what he saw, although he admits he didn't hear anything.
Astronomer David Lane says meteors can put on spectacular shows in the upper atmosphere, but they generally behave the same way, and they’re spotted by thousands of people.
“Astronomical things don't change direction, for one,” said Lane.
There's also the question of how long they're visible.
“A normal meteor lasts a second or two. A really long fireball might last 10 seconds,” Lane said.
Slaunwhite says he had time to call his brother before dialing 911.
“Watched that for about, oh, I'm going to say, a good, two, three minutes,” he said.
Experts note cooler, heavier air masses can sometimes produce mirages, literally a trick of the light. Slaunwhite says he knows what he saw, even if he was the only one to witness it.
RCMP say they are not planning to lay charges in this instance.
HALIFAX – A reported plane crash off of Peggy’s Cove on Tuesday night led to an extensive search of an area around Terence Bay, N.S., but it turned out to be a false alarm.
A resident called 911 just after 6 p.m. Tuesday and reported a plane had been downed in the area, which prompted a massive emergency response from Halifax RCMP, Halifax Regional Fire, the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Halifax and the Canadian Coast Guard.
HMCS Halifax, a cormorant helicopter, Coast Guard Ship Sambro and second coast guard vessel were deployed to the area to aid in the search, which was called off after about an hour.
Captain Cameron Hillier, public affairs officer with Joint Task Force Atlantic, said that early in the search, crews were informed by Air Traffic Control that no aircraft were reported overdue or missing.
Cpt. Hillier said with that in mind, the search continued for about an hour before being called off just before 10 p.m., with no additional emergency reports or 911 calls noted, no additional witness statements and no emergency distress beacons or debris noticed by crews in the area.
“The decision was made to stand all assets down and discontinue the search,” Hillier said, who called the type of call is particulary rare.
“Certainly, if you’ve got a downed aircraft, one would think much more than one person would see it…there would be a significant number of signs.”
Search crews stood down Tuesday night after finding no evidence of a plane crash near Terence Bay, N.S.
The search lasted for a couple hours and included a navy frigate, a coast guard cutter, a cormorant helicopter, RCMP officers, and fire crews, said Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) spokesperson Capt. Cameron Hillier.
“After thorough search and no signs of distress, all assets have been stood down,” read a tweet from Joint Task Force Atlantic.
The Mounties said the search was ended in consultation with the JRCC, according to RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Jennifer Clarke.
“Our watch commander, incident commander, have decided that we don’t have any evidence that an aircraft went down in that area.”
Search crews “can’t find any evidence at all,” said Clarke. Air Traffic Control doesn’t have any planes unaccounted for and JRCC said it hasn’t picked up any emergency signals.
The initial report came from a citizen at 6:35 p.m., he reported seeing something “suspicious,” Clarke said. He reported a small aircraft that appeared in distress, and police thought the report was credible.
The search was aided by a cormorant helicopter, the navy ship HMCS Halifax, and coast guard ship CCGS Sambro, along with a coast guard auxiliary boat. The crews searched the shore waters around Terence Bay and Peggy’s Cove.
Halifax fire crews found nothing on land
Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency says crews responded to the report as well but found nothing.
Crews searched for 45 minutes, first in the area of Terence Bay and then looped down to Peggy’s Cove, but found nothing, according to Division 3 Commander Kevin Reade.
Reade said a single emergency call came in from a person saying that a plane had crashed, split in two and caught fire. Fire crews returned to Halifax following their search.
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