BRITISH COLUMBIA

TSB to examine small plane searching for cause of fiery crash near Osoyoos

07/09/2015 01:14 EDT | Updated 07/09/2016 05:59 EDT
OSOYOOS, B.C. - The pilot of the plane that crashed Tuesday on Highway 97 near Osoyoos, B.C., almost didn't take to the skies because of forest fire smoke across the southern part of the province.

Surrey resident Todd Lewendon, 46, was flying solo en route to Boundary Bay Airport in Delta when his Beechcraft Bonanza A36 lost power shortly after takeoff from the Oliver Municipal Airport around 5 p.m. He was able to free himself from the wreckage, but suffered serious burns and was airlifted to hospital in Vancouver.

"He called me (Tuesday) to see if he could leave the airplane here because the weather (report) he got in the morning was pretty grim in terms of smoke and visibility and whatnot, but obviously it had cleared up," said Oliver airport manager Paul Dumoret.

Lewendon owns a auto-parts business at the Boundary Bay Airport, where his plane is hangared. Prior to the ill-fated flight, he had been at his family's vacation home near Osoyoos.

"He was a pretty competent pilot, from what I understand," said Dumoret, who added Lewendon told him he was close to obtaining his instrument rating, which would allow him to fly in low-visibility situations with the aid of navigation equipment.

Investigators from the Transportation Safety Board were en route to Osoyoos on Wednesday to inspect the wreckage.

"We'll assess it to see if there's anything obvious that could have caused an engine power loss and examine it to see what might have sparked the post-crash fire," said spokesman Bill Yearwood.

"The temperature shouldn't cause the engine to stop," said Yearwood, ruling out the 36 C heat in Osoyoos on Tuesday as a possible contributing factor.

Osoyoos RCMP said in a press release that Lewendon attempted an emergency landing on the highway and navigated around power lines, but the plane's wing clipped a commercial truck, causing the aircraft to hit the ground, slide into a utility pole and burst into flames.

Lewendon was in critical condition at a Vancouver hospital burn unit as of Wednesday morning. (Penticton Herald)