November 19, 2008
Victims of Thormanby Island plane crash identified
Seven people killed in plane crash on South Thormanby Island, British Columbia have been officially identified.
Five of the six workers were employed by Peter Kiewit Sons, which is the main contractor for Plutonic Power Corp’s Toba Inlet hydro power project.
Kyle Adams, Jerry Burns, Ajay Cariappa, Wally Klemens and Matt Sawchenko were in the Grumman Goose plane, operated by Pacific Coastal Airlines, which went down at about 10:30 a.m. on Nov. 16 during a routine flight to the run-of-river power project work camp.
A sixth man, a mechanic for Finning, is Tom Orgar of Surrey, B.C.
The 54-year-old pilot, Peter McLeod, was a veteran pilot who had recently joined the airline.
Miraculously, another Kiewit employee survived the tragedy.
Tom Wilson of Edmonton was reportedly asleep at the time of the crash. Despite being badly injured, he was able to walk away from the burning wreckage before it exploded.
Wilson was found by rescuers and taken to hospital where he is listed in stable condition.
A local helicopter service has been retained to airlift the bodies from the scene.
Peter Kiewit Sons halted work on all of its projects in BC in the days following the crash but the company has since resumed all operations, with the exception in the Toba Inlet project.
Kiewit has made grief counselors available to the workers at the Toba Intet job site to help them deal with the tragedy.
RCMP Cpl. Peter Thiessen said two coroners, a forensic identification investigator and two anthropologists from Simon Fraser University were at the crash site on Thormanby Island.
He said helicopters were on standby to remove the victims’ remains Tuesday.
“The coroner’s service is leading the investigation on the mountain and those anthropologists are supporting the coroners in retrieving any and all information around those seven lost souls,” Thiessen told The Canadian Press.
Investigators for the Transportation Safety Board weren’t yet at the crash site on Tuesday but were continuing to gather information from the airline.
After examining the scene on Monday, a board spokesman said it appeared the plane was likely flying at a low altitude and trying to climb when it went into the trees in poor visibility. But it still wasn’t clear why the plane crashed.
Sunday’s crash was the second this year involving one of Pacific Coastal’s Grumman Goose aircraft.
In August, five people were killed when another Goose crashed on Vancouver Island.
The Transportation Safety Board has yet to issue its report on the earlier crash, and neither the board nor the company would speculate about whether the two incidents might be related.
Grumman Goose planes were first flown in 1937.
The ones operated by Pacific Coastal carry nine passengers and a pilot. Only 345 of the Second World War-era aircraft were built and according to aficionados, between 40 and 60 still operate.
Pacific Coastal has a fleet of 26 aircraft, nine of them float planes.
DCN News Service
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