MIRAMICHI, N.B. - A federal investigation has started into the fatal crash of a water bomber in northern New Brunswick.

The crash of the Forest Protection Ltd. aircraft occurred Friday not long after it took off in northern New Brunswick, resulting in the death of 62-year-old pilot Ron Clowes of Grand Falls.

Michael Cunningham, an investigator with the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, told CTV television news that the debris field of the aircraft covered over 200 metres.

He says when it hit the ground near the Miramichi airport it left "quite a crater," and the impact was so violent that the aircraft came apart in pieces.

Cunningham told CTV that at this early stage of the investigation the federal team is simply gathering facts and it is too early to draw any conclusions on the cause of the crash.

David Davies, a spokesman for Forest Protection Ltd., says that Clowes was conducting a practice flight on the TBM Avenger aircraft at the time of the crash.