The lead plane that crashed into Mission’s Nicomen slough was rear ended by another plane which made an emergency landing in a farmer’s field Wednesday, said a Transportation Safety Board (TSB) investigator.
TSB’s Damien Lawson released the information Thursday afternoon a few hours after RCMP announced the victims were 70-year-old Patrick Lobsinger of Surrey, a passenger in the lead plane, and pilot Donn Hubble, 60, from Langley.
The second plane was flown by Pitt Meadows’ Paul Knapp, said Mission Sgt. Miriam Dickson.
The two planes were part of a foursome that regularly practised formation flying, and took off from Langley Airport. George Miller, airport manager, said the small team has taken part in Remembrance Day fly-overs in the area for the past six years.
The first reports of the crash came in at approximately 4:15 p.m. Wednesday. The Record spoke with a man who knew the pilot of the second plane and was told the planes collided at 1,500 feet and were stuck together as they fell.
Ron Smit said his friend worked the controls and tried to disconnect the planes. At about 500 feet, the planes came apart and the pilot surprisingly found all his controls were functional. He was able to shut off the fuel, power down the plane, then make an emergency landing into the field.
Lawson said the area is officially recognized as a training area and that the four planes were flying in a diamond formation when the incident occurred.
The lead plane was lifted from Nicomen slough early Thursday afternoon by helicopter, then deposited on North Fraser Fire Hall one’s parking lot where a crew removed the wings and prepared to truck the aircraft to a TSB facility where the remainder of the investigation will occur.
Formation flying is a regular occurrence in this airspace, said Lawson, and the distances between planes are not regulated and are up to the individual pilots. The four practised together regularly, he said.
“This is really just a tragic accident.”