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TSB officials start investigation into cause of deadly Alberta plane crash

The Transportation Safety Board has started looking into the cause of a small plane crash that left six people dead in the Rockies west of Calgary.

Spokesperson Liam MacDonald said a team of investigators arrived in the area late Saturday and began its work Sunday morning.

“They are conducting several interviews and collecting information about the aircraft,” he said, adding the investigation would also look into the weather at the time of the crash.

RCMP said Saturday that the plane with a pilot and five passengers aboard took off from Springbank Airport, just west of Calgary, on Friday night and was headed to Salmon Arm, B.C.

Their names have not been released, but police said that all the people on board were on their way to a church function.

In a statement to CBC, TSB said it’s currently in the process of collecting data and assessing the accident.

“The occurrence has not yet been classified. We will assess the occurrence and make a decision as to whether or not to do a full investigation.” 

A helicopter flies near Mount Bogart in Kananaskis Country on July 29, 2023, following a plane crash that left six people dead.
A helicopter flies near Mount Bogart in Kananaskis Country on July 29, 2023, following a plane crash that left six people dead. (Mark Prystajecky)

Didier Féminier, a former Aircraft Accident Investigator with TSB, said the plane, which was a privately owned Piper PA-32, is a single-engine plane. 

“It’s always something which is a bit delicate when you fly out in a mountainous region with the single engine aircraft at night. So these are the concerns that the investigator will have,” he said. 

He said the TSB will gather as much data as it can and look at whether the engine was producing power, the condition of the aircraft, maintenance, weather conditions, and “human factors,” including why the pilot flew at night. 

“It’s always a heartbreaking situation,” he said. 

The plane was reported overdue on Friday by the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Trenton, Ont., and police said the centre contacted them about the plane at 1 a.m. on Saturday.

Airplanes parked in front of a brown building.
Planes sit at Springbank Airport in Alberta, where the flight took off from Friday. (CBC)

Police said a Winnipeg-based Royal Canadian Air Force Hercules plane was dispatched to look for the missing aircraft and found it in Kananaskis Country, a mountainous area west of Calgary, by honing in on an emergency locator transmitter.

Searchers with Alberta Parks mountain rescue responded with Alpine Helicopters and a Comox-based RCAF CH-149 Cormorant from the 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron.

All six bodies were recovered Saturday from what police said was “difficult terrain.”

A statement from the Calgary Airport Authority, which manages and operates Springbank Airport, didn’t provide any further information about the plane or the crash.

“We are saddened by the tragedy and our hearts go out to those who lost their lives and to the family and friends who lost loved ones,” the authority said Sunday.

Alberta Parks said “due to an ongoing incident” only the west half of the parking lot at the Heart Creek day use area and McGillivray Bunker Trail head is open. 

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