News

Three dead as plane from Pitt Meadows crashes near Kelowna

Three people are confirmed dead as a float plane headed for Pitt Meadows crashed along Highway 97 near Peachland Sunday evening.

According to witnesses, the single-engine de Havilland Beaver float plane went down in a wooded embankment below the highway, near Brenda Mines off the Okanagan Connector, and burst into flames around 6:45 p.m.

According to emergency crews that attended the scene, it appeared as though the pilot was trying to land on the highway, but came just short of that goal.

"The distance from the road was 500 to 750 feet," said Troy Russell, West Kelowna fire captain who co-ordinated the fire response last night.

"You could see the direction of flight – and as bystanders have said – it looked like they made an attempt to do a landing on the highway, but efforts were hindered by the topography."

All three passengers aboard the plane have been confirmed dead.

According to the Canadian Civil Aircraft Register, the plane was register to pilot Colin W. O. Moyes of West Vancouver. He owned several hangars at the Pitt Meadows Airpark, said owner Brandon Warner.

The Transportation Safety Board has dispatched two investigators to the site to assess the wreckage and ascertain the cause of the crash, said board spokesperson Chris Krepski.

That will take some time, Krepski noted, as investigators will have to document and photograph the crash site, investigate flight control and the engine records, and take that information back to a lab for closer analysis.

The small float plane was returning to Pitt Meadows from Kelowna and had only departed from Okanagan Lake minutes earlier.

Emergency crews responded to the accident between 6 and 7 p.m. as passing motorists had seen the plane crash near the Brenda Mines site.

Fears of the airplane crash sparking a forest fire were subdued by a ministry of forests forest initial attack crew who set up a protective guard to prevent any flames from spreading.

The fuselage of the plane was intact. However, as the plane came through the trees a wing was knocked off. Other wreckage was scattered in a 200 square metre radius and flames whipped around the area.

"To our advantage, it wasn't an August fire, but we did have forestry on site, they deployed a working team up to the fire as well," he said.  "With their expertise, and the conditions there wasn't a lot of threat as nightfall came."

As crews worked to mop up the scene, Russell said family members of those who died in the crash arrived.

"For myself and rest of [the crew], we really felt for the family members, knowing the nature of what they were dealing with," he said. "When you're dealing with a forest fire it's basically property protection … this was a new dynamic."

– Kelowna Capital News

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