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Safety Board doubts marmots implicated in fatal Vernon plane crash

RCMP and the coroner look through the burnt wreckage of a twin engine plane crash at Marshall Field in Vernon, B.C., Saturday, July 7, 2012.

Jeff Bassett/Canadian Press

Transportation Safety Board investigators have begun examining the charred remains of a twin-engine plane that crashed in Vernon, B.C., killing the pilot and his passenger.

Safety board spokesman Bill Yearwood says he has spoken with a key witness who watched the plane clip two trees and slam into a sports field on Saturday afternoon.

Mr. Yearwood says the cause of the crash has not been determined.

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He is skeptical of reports that marmots may have chewed vital aircraft controls, saying it's unlikely the little rodents would be interested in wiring, and it's not an issue investigators have encountered before.

Witnesses say the Piper 23 had just taken off from the nearby airport when something went wrong and it clipped the trees and skidded across the grassy field before bursting into a ball of flame.

A family member has identified the 59-year-old pilot as Jim Langley of Kelowna, and his passenger as 53-year-old Port Moody resident Karim Makalai.

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