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A float plane similar to the one that crashed on Vancouver Island Friday. Investigators are still determining the cause of the crash, but say poor visibility and weather conditions may have been factors.

A float plane similar to the one that crashed on Vancouver Island Friday. Investigators are still determining the cause of the crash, but say poor visibility and weather conditions may have been factors.

Plane crash revives safety debate Add to ...

A spokesman for the Transportation Safety Board is repeating his demand that more be done to prevent fires after plane crashes, in the wake of the deaths of two people in a float-plane accident last Friday.

Bill Yearwood said media interviews by one of the survivors, as well as pictures of the wreckage collected by the TSB, indicate there was a post-crash fire.

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“We know that the accident was survivable because several of the passengers survived,” he said. “We won’t be able to confirm the cause of death of the two people that sadly lost their lives until the coroner gives us that, but this accident has all the signatures of what the [TSB] has been reporting on and fearing.”

The TSB has “raised the safety concern that if action wasn’t taken by the minister to prevent post-crash fires, more lives would be lost, and here we go again,” he said.

The Air Nootka plane took off from Hesquiaht Lake on Friday, approximately 85 kilometres north of Tofino. The pilot and the plane’s five passengers, believed to be hikers, were en route to Gold River.

But the plane’s emergency beacon was activated minutes after takeoff and the plane crashed shortly afterward. Four people survived.

The safety board released a scathing report last month that argued two pilots might still be alive if the federal government had heeded recommendations dating back seven years. Their report probed an October 2011 crash near Vancouver’s airport in which two pilots were killed and seven passengers seriously injured when a turboprop plane slammed into a road while preparing for an emergency landing.

The report concluded the pilots could have survived the crash, but instead, a cockpit fire fuelled by arcing wires connected to the plane’s battery left them with fatal burns.

But Transport Canada responded that changing the way aircraft are designed to save lives by limiting fires after plane crashes would not be simple, nor would it be the most effective way to reduce fatalities.

Director of civil aviation Martin Eley said in an interview following the report’s release that Transport Canada is focusing on the areas that will save the greatest number of lives. Mr. Eley added that half of all aviation fatalities are linked to either the pilots’ loss of aircraft control, controlled flight into terrain or poor response to engine failure.

“Those areas contribute to the largest number of accidents, so the decision was made to focus on those things, which are clearly all about avoiding accidents, in preference to focusing on a particular piece that is not going to create the same impact in terms of the overall fatality numbers,” Mr. Eley said earlier this month.

“If there is a lot of work to be done, let’s work on the areas where there is the biggest benefit.”

But Mr. Yearwood dismissed that response Monday, saying “safety has to deal with both preventative measures and protective measures.”

“One can imagine where we would be if we just took that easy answer in car accidents,” he said. “Although driver training has improved, seat belts and air bags had to be put in place to protect passengers in the rare occurrences that they get involved in a bad accident.”

Mr. Yearwood said investigators will likely be on site at the wreckage of Friday’s plane crash through Tuesday, and it will take months of analysis before a report on the crash is published.

 

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