Transportation Safety Board investigators reached a remote location in northern Saskatchewan Sunday afternoon to gather evidence from a mid-air collision of two single-engine planes.
All five people aboard both aircraft were killed in the Saturday morning accident.
One of the planes – a four-seat Piper PA-28 that was travelling from Calgary to St. Brieux, Sask. – had three people aboard including its pilot.
The other plane was a Lake Buccaneer, an amphibious four-seat aircraft that was travelling from Regina to La Ronge, Sask., with a man and woman in their 60s on board.
“Investigators are on the scene, documenting records, identifying pieces they may want to bring to the lab for a closer look, taking photographs and interviewing any witnesses there may be,” safety-board spokesman Chris Krepski said Sunday night.
The Piper was piloted by Denny Loree, who was in his 50s. His passengers were Eric Donovan, 38, and his 11-year old son, Wade. Mr. Loree was from Nanton, Alta., but farmed in Mossleigh, a small town southeast of Calgary. His passengers were from Mossleigh, where Mr. Donovan ran a grain trucking company.
Police have notified the families of the victims.
Wendy Briens, who lives on a farm approximately a kilometre south of the crash site, said the collision took place over farmland dotted with swampy sloughs. She said that police quickly blocked off the only roads leading to the site.
“It’s in the middle of nowhere,” RCMP Corporal Rob King said in an interview. He said that officers interviewed several people who believed they may have heard the crash, but none who claimed to have actually seen it.
The Piper was supposed to land at an airstrip owned by Bourgault Industries Ltd., a farm-equipment company based in St. Brieux, The Canadian Press reported. Bourgault president Gerry Bourgault told the Vancouver Sun that the plane was picking up parts, and those aboard were customers, not employees of the agricultural company.
RCMP received reports of the plane crash at 8:50 a.m. Saturday morning and sent officers to the site of the wreckage, approximately 180 kilometres northeast of Saskatoon.
It was initially believed that the incident had only involved one plane, but when officers arrived on the scene they found debris from two different planes, said Cpl. King from the Saskatchewan RCMP. He said that police also received reports from Regina’s flight service that two planes had gone “off radar.”
Emergency personnel found the wreckage of the first plane upside down in a waist-deep swamp, with debris scattered for kilometres around. One body was pulled from the red and white plane and the local Melfort Journal newspaper reported the victim was from the Regina area.
The second plane was discovered about two kilometres away, also partially submerged in muddy water in a wooded area, according to Cpl. King.
Investigators will be looking into what happened before the crash, the pilot’s training records, flight histories, witnesses, radar data, weather conditions and any other information to determine the cause of the accident, Mr. Krepski said.
He said he was unaware whether there were any recorded exchanges between the pilots and air-traffic personnel in the moments before the accident occurred.
Mr. Krepski said it has not been confirmed whether either flight had a black box. “Small aircrafts are not required to have flight recorders and most often do not,” he said.
The RCMP officers and the force’s underwater recovery team were working through the wreckage Sunday to recover the remaining bodies.