The first person at the scene of a deadly ultralight plane crash in southern Nova Scotia yesterday shuddered as he recalled the cries of an injured passenger just as fuel ignited on the engine of the crumpled aircraft.
"It's something I don't want to see again," said Arnold Whynott, who had watched as the red-and-white float plane circled over the quarry where he works, then plunged into trees about 50 metres away, its engine strangely silent.
The man in the front seat of the aircraft was killed in the crash. Another man in the rear seat was seriously injured.
"We couldn't get him [the man in the rear seat]out of the plane, and it started to catch fire. I started going for a fire extinguisher, and then everyone came at once," Mr. Whynott said, referring to the arrival of local firefighters.
Police declined to identify a 64-year-old Swiss man killed in the crash, saying they needed time to notify relatives in Europe.
The 59-year-old man rescued from the burning wreckage, who is also believed to be from Switzerland, was taken to hospital in Halifax, where he was listed in serious condition.
Mr. Whynott said he had often heard the characteristic revving sound of the small plane as it took off from nearby Big Crouse's Lake and circled above his weigh station at the gravel pit, about 100 kilometres southwest of Halifax.
Pam Walters, a friend and neighbour of the plane's owner, said he had been involved in another crash a year earlier in the nearby LaHave River.
Ms. Walters described him as an outdoorsman who travelled to Nova Scotia every summer and flew as often as he could.
"He loved his plane," she said. "He took it out whenever he could. Sometimes you wonder when they're up flying around how safe the airplane was. It was just a hobby of his."
Accident investigators declined to speculate about what caused the crash.
Mike Cunningham, spokesman for the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, said investigators will first focus on the wreckage, then examine the crash scene and the engine.
The board may issue a full report on the crash, but accidents involving small aircraft are sometimes difficult to piece together because of the limited flight data available.
"Without [the pilot] sometimes it's just impossible with these small aircraft," Mr. Cunningham said. "And in a lot of these cases ... it's such a traumatic experience that the passenger isn't able to provide valuable information, especially if they don't have flying experience."
According to statistics compiled by the Transportation Safety Board, four people have been killed in 15 accidents involving Canadian-registered ultralight planes from January to July of this year.
Between 2001 and 2005, an average of nine people were killed each year in ultralight crashes.
Mr. Whynott said the owner of the aircraft, who kept his plane at Big Crouse's Lake, occasionally trained friends from Switzerland to fly.
He said he often thought about asking for a ride in the small plane, but he never followed up.
"I thought I'd like to try that," he said. "But I guess I wouldn't now."