Employees at a Kelowna-based air cargo business are in mourning after search and rescue crews located the bodies of two pilots operating a Carson Air cargo flight that crashed in the North Shore mountains shortly after taking off from Vancouver on Monday morning.
Search and rescue crews located the bodies of the two pilots on Tuesday after an extensive search in an area known as Crown Mountain. The twin prop aircraft operated by Carson Air took off from Vancouver at 6:55 Monday morning but by 7:10 a.m. air traffic control had lost contact with the airplane.
Search crews located the airplane overnight Monday and by Tuesday afternoon, the bodies of both pilots had also been found. No one else was on board.
While the cause has not been determined, flying conditions were challenging, according to search and rescue.
“There were several issues that were challenging for the pilots,” said naval lieutenant Paul Trenholm of the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Victoria, the lead search and rescue agency. “Notably the weather….there were low ceilings and turbulence and in addition to that there was very treacherous mountain terrain with deep snow reported by our ground crews.”
According to the flight plan filed for Carson Air flight 66, the plane was expected to be flying at 20,000 feet en route to Prince George. However the wreckage was found at just 4,500 feet on Crown Mountain, which peaks out at 4,900 feet. Overnight Monday search crews were able to locate the plane.
“Early (Monday) night search and rescue crews smelled aviation fuel that led them to discover parts of the wing and later on they were able to identify the exact identity of the plane via its tail number,” said Trenholm. “Early (Tuesday) morning they located first one pilot and then Tuesday afternoon confirmed the location of the second pilot. Unfortunately they were both deceased.”
Carson Air employs about 50 people in Kelowna, where the head offices of the company are located, although the company also has bases in Vancouver, Calgary and Abbotsford and employs more than 100 people throughout those offices. The company does air cargo flights as well as air ambulance and also operates a flight training school.
“Everybody is really shaken up by this tragedy,” said Carson Air vice-president Kevin Hillier from his office in Kelowna. “Out of respect for the families of the victims, we’re not going to speculate on the causes or outcomes or anything like that. At this time we are working with the agencies involved. Everyone is very upset.”
The investigation has now been handed over to the B.C. Coroners Service as well as the Transportation Safety Board. The coroner was expected to release the names of the pilots on Wednesday.