NEWS

Investigators Probe Cause Of Fatal B.C. Plane Crash

07/08/2012 03:28 EDT | Updated 09/07/2012 05:12 EDT
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The B.C. Coroner's Service, police and the Transportation Safety Board are investigating a plane crash that killed two people in Vernon, B.C.

RCMP spokesman Gord Molendyk said the 1958 twin-engine Piper Apache took off from the local airport early Saturday afternoon, clipped two trees and crashed into a sports field off Okanagan Landing Road.

The plane erupted into a ball of fire, killing the pilot, a 59-year-old Kelowna man, and his passenger, a 55-year-old man from the Port Moody area.

The plane is registered to Shaida Langley in Kelowna, who was not on the plane at the time of the crash. The names of the victims will not be released until their families have been notified.

Witnesses say the plane was destroyed, and little of the aircraft was left after firefighters put out the blaze.

Local resident Kevin Gibbs rushed down to the playing field after he heard the plane crash.

"The grass was on fire, it clipped a few small trees, right in the soccer field."

Dan Walker with Vernon Fire Rescue Services says it's amazing no one else was hurt.

"As of last weekend, the soccer league was playing so usually [the field is] full of children and families," he said.

"I can confirm that one guy almost got clipped. He was sitting on a bench there and was narrowly missed, so in that respect it could have been a lot worse."

Walker says the cause of the crash has not been determined, but weather was not a factor.

"[It was] dead calm, skies are beautiful like everywhere else," he said. "All I can really say is that I'd heard that a witness said they heard some sputtering and puttering and the plane just listed and dropped right into the field."

Flying community shaken up

Ray Young, who owns a similar aircraft, says the pilot had significantly modified several parts of the aircraft to make it as safe as possible, including adding a larger piece to the tail.

"Which gives better directional control and stability of the aircraft, especially if there's an engine failure," he said.

The pilot, Young said, had significant flight training for twin-engine aircrafts, would have gone through a checklist and had an emergency plan.

"If something goes wrong, what speeds am I looking for? Where am I gonna go, what am I gonna do? That's a common procedure that we all go through with twin-engine airplanes just before we take off."

As the B.C. Coroner's Service and Transportation Safety Board continue investigating the cause of the crash, the local aviation community is mourning.

"Our hearts go out to the family," Young said. "It definitely shakes up the whole flying community when this stuff happens."

Fatal B.C. aviation crashes

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Vernon, B.C. Plane Crash