Kelowna man dead after midair crash

Kelowna resident Ray Perino, 59, died Saturday in a midair glider-plane crash.

Friends within an Invermere based flying club are grieving Kelowna resident Ray Perino and Calgarian Keith Watson, following a midair crash that took their lives.

“They will be very missed,” said Trevor Florence, a member of the gliding club that operates out of the Invermere Soaring Centre.

The two were considered experienced sailplane pilots, which makes their fatal Saturday afternoon crash all the more upsetting.

“Ray was a retired school principal, who was methodical, organized and very safety minded,” said Florence, adding he was actively involved in the club and valued by every member for being so dedicated.

“There’s no one to blame if you bump wings together in the sky … I’m sure they didn’t see each other.”

Columbia Valley Mounties were called at around 3:24 p.m., Sept. 3,  to attend the report that two sailplanes, piloted by Watson, 50, and Perino, 59, collided while in flight in the Mount Swansea area of Windermere, which is located just south of Invermere.

“The two planes were gliding in the same thermal lift and at one point contacted wings, causing both to lose control and crash into the side of Mount Swansea,” said Cpl. Dan Moskaluk, in a statement.

“This accident was witnessed by another sailplane pilot as well as several other people hiking on the mountain.”

The hikers were able to quickly locate however neither pilot survived the crash. Columbia Valley RCMP, Search and Rescue, and BCAS attended the scene which was accessible by vehicle, it was confirmed that both men were deceased.

Moskaluk confirmed that both were experienced pilots familiar with the area. They had reportedly departed the Invermere airport, as they’d done many times before,  earlier in the afternoon.

Perino’s wife is en route to Invermere, said Florence, and it’s likely a service of some sort will be put together to pay tribute to the two men, although it’s too early to know the details as of yet.

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