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Beloved Northern Ontario dentist dies in plane crash in Lake Huron

Dr. Edward Grodecki had offices in Sault Ste. Marie, North Bay, Timmins, and Sudbury. When his plane crashed, he was training to become a better pilot so he could bring dental care to the most remote Northern Ontario communities
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Beloved Northern Ontario dentist Dr. Edward Grodecki passed away after his plane crashed into Lake Huron on Wednesday. Image Supplied

A beloved Northern Ontario dentist died after his plane crashed over Lake Huron late Wednesday evening.

On Friday, after almost 39 hours of searching, OPP said they found the body of Dr. Edward Grodecki at the bottom of Lake Huron still inside the 'heavily damaged' two-seat Cessna 150 J plane that he was travelling in.

On Wednesday, at around 8:43 p.m., witnesses on the ground reported seeing a small airplane 'in distress' near Goderich Airport, said an OPP media release.

Witnesses said it seemed like the plane was trying to land, said Goderich Fire Chief, Steve Gardiner,

After it crashed, a full multi-agency task force conducted ground, air, and water searches to locate the Cessna and its passengers said OPP.

On Thursday, the body of Veronica Draghici, 36, was located in Lake Huron.

Then, on Friday morning, about 1.5 km away from the shore, the OPP Underwater Search and Recovery Unit found Grodecki's body inside the plane, said OPP releases.

The plane had been travelling from Brampton to Goderich airport said Huron OPP Const. Jamie Stanley.

Dr. Edward Grodecki, his practice and contributions

Grodecki was a successful oral and maxillofacial surgeon who practiced out of offices in Sault Ste. Marie, North Bay, Timmins, Sudbury, and who owned several offices in Southern Ontario.

Grodecki had a pilot's license for years but, on Wednesday, he was training and logging more nighttime hours, said his Northern Ontario office manager and one of his head nurses, Rachelle Wright. 

Wright, who works out of his North Bay office, told VillageMedia she is deeply saddened by Grodecki's loss.

She said that, during his fatal flight, Grodecki was working towards accomplishing his goal of flying to remote Northern Ontario communities and offering dental care.

“He was driven and had a vision... His dream was to fly in to remote native communities with a team of us and we would treat all the patients (in) ten or twelve hour days,” said Wright. "He felt (those communities) were so secluded they had no treatment and no one would go and treat them...It wasn’t worth it for most dentists (but) for him it wasn’t about the money, it was about helping these patients."

Wright described Grodecki as a caring man, who was primarily concerned about using his skills as a dentist to help people, even at his own expense.

"Often people don’t smile when they come in (to the office) because their teeth are so bad. Then they get new teeth and come out and smile," she said. "To him it was all about that…. getting the people out of pain and making them smile again."

north bay oral surgery sign turl 2017The office of North Bay dentist Dr. Edward Grodecki.

Wright said Grodecki lived in Oakville but primarily based his practice in North Bay.

He would spend a few days a week at each of his other Northern Ontario offices every month.

"All the dentists in Northern Ontario know him. He was in every city," she said.

Wright said Grodecki hired other dentists to work at his Southern Ontario offices and it was often difficult to find people to work in the north.

“Not a lot of surgeons want to come (to Northern Ontario) so he was here all summer,” she said.

Grodecki: a pioneer who brought awareness of Northern Ontario's needs

Dr. Pascal Stevens, another dental surgeon who worked with Grodecki in Timmins, described him as a pioneer who brought awareness of Northern Ontario's desperate need for oral surgeons.

Before Grodecki start practicing in Timmins, patients would have to wait up to nine months and travel hundreds of kilometers to get dental surgery, if they could find someone at all, Stevens said.

He confirmed Wright's sentiments that Grodecki was more concerned with caring for people than how much money he could make off them.

“It wasn’t just about money money money with him. He just had a really good social conscience about him and he was treating everybody in society. (To him) these people were in pain, and he would worry about the rest later,” said Stevens. 

Stevens said it is common for oral surgeons to restrict the amount of dental care they provide to people on social assistance because they don’t make as much money per tooth extraction.

“It didn’t matter if you didn’t have coverage. Sometimes he would lose money in a day with of the cost of bringing in nurses," he said.

Stevens said Grodecki was a highly skilled oral and maxillofacial surgeon.

He said Grodecki would sometimes be called to do reconstruction surgery after facial trauma in Southern Ontario and that he worked as a specialist at Mount Sinai hospital training resident doctors at the University of Toronto.

Wright and Pascal said Grodecki leaves behind a wife and two adult daughters, both of whom flew in from overseas after hearing about the loss of their father.

"There’s no words," said Wright, tearfully. She said she has lost someone who was not just a boss, but who developed a family-like relationship with her, and others in his life.

"He will be missed."