Cause of plane crash that killed former Alberta premier and three others may never be known

TSB has collected all the evidence from the scene and will now start analysis (with VIDEO)



What caused a business class jet carrying a former Alberta premier and three others to fall out of the sky, killing all aboard may never be known.

The Transportation Safety Board wrapped up the field investigation of the Oct. 13 Lake Country crash, and in the days ahead aviation experts will start trying to piece together what happened from a very small amount of evidence.

No distress or emergency signal was sent as the Cessna Citation nosedived 2,600 metres. The aircraft was also missing a data and voice recorder, which said a Transportation Safety Board representative said, isn’t uncommon although not ideal.

That leaves investigators looking to other sources, which are also lacking.

“In this case we have no witnesses and no survivors and the information we are going to get from the wreckage is compromised because of the level of destruction,” said Bill Yearwood with the Transportation Safety Board.

“The  best information is coming from the radar data,” he said.

“That can tell us what was happening from the outside.”

It doesn’t, however, say what  the pilot doing, or how was he trying to deal with the situation that apparently caused a flight disruption and his loss of control of the aircraft.

Yearwood pointed out that doesn’t mean that it was the pilot who was at fault, but human error is what they’re looking for.

“Even if something broke, or a wing fell off, some human didn’t anticipate a failure — it’s always human error,” he said. “It’s an accident and the question is how the humans involved got caught.”

Yearwood also said the simple fact that the plane was modified to seat one pilot rather than two isn’t necessarily the problem either.

“This aircraft was initially certified with a requirement for two pilots and two years into its model development there was a version that allowed a single pilot operation,” he said. “It was allowed to fly single pilot.”

What is allowed and what it best, however, are two different things.

“(Flying solo) is absolutely a handful when there’s an emergency,” said Yearwood. “When everything is going OK single operations are OK. But I know as a pilot when things are going wrong, that having help is very beneficial.”

One pilot can deal with the problem, he explained, while the other can help fly the plane.

The Cessna Citation private business aircraft, owned by Norjet, a Calgary-based firm, had departed Kelowna International Airport at about 8:30 p.m. Thursday night en route to Springbank, outside of Calgary, and that weather conditions were heavy rain.

Cpl. Dan Moskaluk, the day following the crash, said RCMP, with the help of a police dog, were able to get to the scene just before midnight, and received assistance from local search and rescue volunteers.

“The terrain is hilly  and densely forested, but we were able to access the site from a nearby forest service road,” said Moskaluk.

“It was a catastrophic crash and there were no survivors.”

The site of the crash was northeast of Winfield, about four kms north of Beaver Lake Road and about 18 kms north of Kelowna.

Kelowna RCMP and Lake Country RCMP detachments were alerted by the Surrey Air Traffic Control Centre that they had lost contact with a Citation jet shortly after its takeoff from Kelowna airport.