Two dead after plane crashes in Vernon, B.C.
Published Saturday, July 7, 2012 6:29PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, July 7, 2012 11:15PM EDT
Two people have died after a small passenger plane crashed and exploded in the Okanagan city of Vernon, B.C., on Saturday afternoon.
The RCMP said the plane took off from the Vernon Regional Airport, which is about an hour north of Kelowna, around 1:00 p.m. local time and crashed into a recreational field adjacent to the airport called Marshall Field.
RCMP spokesperson Gord Molendyk said he was near the site of the crash when it occurred.
Molendyk said the plane appeared to clip two trees before it slammed into the ground.
"I heard this explosion, looked over to see this aircraft burst into flames," Molendyk, a spokesman for the Vernon North Okanagan RCMP, told The Canadian Press.
"There was fire, along the ground, right up to the aircraft."
Molendyk noted that it was sunny and clear at the time of the crash.
Capt. Greg Clarke of the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Victoria identified the plane as a twin-engine Piper 23. He said an emergency beacon went off around 1 p.m., which prompted emergency crews to head to the scene.
Peggy Olson and her husband were driving on a nearby road when they spotted black smoke coming from the area.
“We got there after the crash, so all it was, was lots of black smoke,” she told CTV News Channel in a telephone interview. “The plane was totally engulfed when we got there.”
Olson said emergency crews arrived shortly after she did and immediately began dousing the plane with water and foam. After they were done, “You couldn’t see anything but a twisted metal frame,” she said.
Vernon Morning Star reporter Graeme Corbett told News Channel that there could have been more fatalities had the recreational field been in use.
“It was quite fortunate that no one on the ground was injured or killed in this, as well,” he said.
The RCMP and the Coroners Service of British Columbia are investigating the incident. They have not yet released the names of the victims or details of where the plane was heading.
Officials have also contacted the Transportation Safety Board.