An investigation is underway into the plane crash that killed former MP and political commentator Jean Lapierre and several members of his family in Quebec.

Lapierre, 59, his wife Nicole Beaulieu, his two brothers Marc and Louis, his sister Martine, as well crew members Fabrice Labourel and Pascal Gosselin died on Tuesday when the plane they were in crashed near the Ile-de-la-Madeleine airport. The family had been travelling to attend a funeral for Lapierre's father.

Six of the seven individuals on board were pronounced dead at the scene, and the seventh died in hospital, paramedics said.

Lapierre's last tweet was sent out the day before his death, announcing that his father Raymond had died at the age of 83, after a long battle with Parkinson's.

Martine Asselin, a spokeswoman for the Surete du Quebec, told reporters on Wednesday that investigators arrived at the crash site this morning and should be there for a couple of days.

Asselin said the Surete du Quebec's role in the investigation is to determine there was "no criminal intention."

Quebec police said they had 30 people at the one-kilometre crash site. So far, they have spoken to at least 10 witnesses, as well as the family members of those affected.

Asselin said it was too early to say what caused the crash, but that investigators are looking at variables such as the weather and mechanical issues.

"At this point, we are looking at every type of event," Asselin said.

Asselin added that the bodies of the victims were still on the island when she arrived this morning, but some of them are scheduled to have an autopsy.

The investigation of the crash is being jointly handled by the Surete du Quebec and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, who also has a team on site.

The TSB said in a press release that so far it has performed a preliminary examination of the site and taken photographs of the wreckage.

The independent agency also plans to do the following in the coming days:

  • Further examine, document and photograph the wreckage
  • Make arrangements to send the aircraft to a laboratory in Ottawa for further analysis
  • Analyze the terrain
  • Gather more information about the weather conditions, air traffic communication and radar information at the time of the crash
  • Obtain aircraft maintenance and pilot training records
  • Interview witnesses

'A treasured friend'

Earlier on Wednesday, Lapierre's friends and politicians were reacting to the death of the former MP.

Former prime minister Paul Martin expressed his sadness over the death of Lapierre, who served as transport minister in his cabinet.

"Many Canadians knew Jean from his time in politics, and as a political analyst," Martin said in a statement on Wednesday. "I am among the lucky few that knew Jean as a treasured friend."

Martin hailed Lapierre as a "terrific friend, a proud Quebecer and a dedicated Canadian," and praised him for his service to the country.

Later on Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described Lapierre's death as a "great loss" for Quebec and Canada. "We all will remember him as a skilled, dedicated politician who was known, respected, and even loved by all," Trudeau said.

The PM offered condolences on behalf of himself and his wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau. He also said Lapierre's insights and perspective will be missed.

Lapierre was first elected as a Liberal MP for the Quebec riding of Shefford, at the age of 23, and served until 1993. He later joined the Bloc Quebecois for a time, before rejoining the Liberals in 2004. He served in Martin's cabinet from 2004 to 2006.

The crash

Witnesses told CTV News that there were indications the aircraft was in distress before it crashed into a hill near the island airport.

"The engines of the plane were a lot louder than usual, so we went to the windows and saw the plane drop out of altitude very quick," witness Antonin Valiquette told CTV Montreal. "It crashed into the bottom of a little hill," he added.

The TSB said the weather at the time of the crash was light rain and mist, with winds gusting up to 56 kilometres an hour. The visibility was also four km.