A small town in southwestern Manitoba is in mourning after a man and three young boys died in a plane crash Sunday.

The single-engine Cessna 210 crashed just north of Waskada, Man., which is located near the U.S. border.

The crash killed all occupants, including the 37-year-old pilot Darren Spence, his two sons Gage and Logan, ages 9 and 10, and family friend Dawson Pentecost, 9.

Pentecost’s brother, Talis Taylor-Meszaros, said in an email that it was the first time Pentecost had been on a plane.

All three boys attended a local school together and played together on a local hockey team.

Now, the small town of 200 is trying to come to terms with the loss.

“The fact that they’re not here anymore is shocking and it’s just something we’re going to have try and get through,” Mayor Gary Williams said Monday.

Williams said Spence was an experienced crop-dusting pilot. He said the recreational flight took off around 1 p.m. Sunday.

Jordan Pollard attended school with the young victims. He described the mood after news of the crash broke.

“I walked into school and we were just walking with our head down. Nobody really said anything,” he said.

Eight grief counsellors have been called into the school to help counsel grieving students, staff and parents

“It never really goes away. I mean you’ll get better, things move on. But it’ll never go away,” resident Kelly Cathcart said.

The plane, built in 1963, was en route to Brandon, Man., CTV Winnipeg reported. Brandon is located northeast of Waskada.

RCMP said the Cessna was reported late for its scheduled arrival around 3 p.m. About four hours later, a search-and-rescue team found the plane in an open field located about five kilometres from the air strip.

Investigators with the Transportation Safety Board say it’s too early to say what caused the crash.

“We're going to have a look at what the facts are that we can gather. We're going to interview people that we can that know something about this flight. We're going to have to look at the airplane itself. Was the aircraft serviceable? Was it working? Was there any malfunction that might have contributed to this?” TSB regional manager Peter Hildebrand said.

Hildebrand said the plane was so severely damaged that investigators couldn't determine if the landing gear was down.

Close family friend Terry Linto said Spence was an expert pilot who always put safety first.

"There's no question. It's not pilot error. It's got to be mechanical," he said.

He said Spence’s father was a spray pilot for nearly 50 years.

Investigators will be back at the crash scene on Tuesday.

With a report from CTV Winnipeg’s Rajeev Dhir and files from The Canadian Press