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Pilot, passenger killed in Vancouver Island float plane crash identified

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.

The two victims of a fatal float plane crash on the west coast of Vancouver Island have been identified by the BC Coroners Service.

Pilot Grant Clifford Howatt, a 66-year-old from Ladysmith, and passenger Charles Henry Turner, a 63-year-old from Courtenay, were on board the Air Nootka plane with four other people when it went down last Friday just moments after take off near Hesquiaht Lake, about 85 kilometres north of Tofino.

Two of the survivors walked away from the wreckage unharmed, while two others suffered serious injuries and were sent to Victoria General Hospital.

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The group had been on its way to Gold River, where Air Nootka is based. On Friday, the company posted on its website that Howatt, who once owned the company with his wife, was a good friend and colleague.

He was also a knowledgeable and skilled pilot with "over 16,000 accident-free flying hours" under his belt, the company said.

"The thousands of passengers who had the privilege of flying with him, knew him for his warm smile and professional manner," said the online tribute.

"Daily we receive kind words and encouragement from the many people he had touched over his life in this area and beyond."

Turner was an avid mountaineer who was part of the Vancouver Island sector of the Alpine Club of Canada.

Ken Rodonets, who has known Turner for 15 years and who last hiked with him three years ago, said he was a safety-conscious mountaineer who often looked out for others.

"He was a quiet, soft-spoken person, he had a very good personality and good humour," Rodonets said in a phone interview earlier in the week.

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The Comox District Mountaineering Club, of which Turner was a member, have said a private memorial to celebrate his life will be held Saturday in Courtenay.

Meanwhile, investigators continue to probe for the cause of the crash.

While the investigation is in its early stage, the Transportation Safety Board has said that media interviews with the survivors and photos of the wreckage indicate that a fire broke out after the plane crashed.

That has prompted the board to once again raise a red flag about post-crash fires, arguing that more lives will be lost if the federal government does not do more to prevent them.

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