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PeakVisor

Mystery in the Mountains: Plane Crash Puzzles Experts

Passengers aboard the aircraft were on their way to a church function in Salmon Arm, BC

On Friday, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) is investigating a plane crash near Mount Bogart in Kananaskis Country.

Small aircraft like the Piper PA-32 are typically used for personal use or short flights between local regions not served by scheduled airlines. 

According to David Rohrer, a former TSB investigator from Ontario, the Piper PA-32 is perfectly capable of transporting six passengers plus baggage.

But throw Alberta’s challenging environment into the mix, and things get complicated. 

a photo of the piper pa32 aircraft in the air
A Piper PA-32, a series of aircraft manufactured in the United States between 1965 and 2007

“You’re at high altitudes; the temperatures can be warm, and you can run into the weather. So, there are a number of challenges that a light airplane is less capable in performance to deal with than perhaps a larger corporate jet or commercial jet,” Rohrer told Global News.

Names of the victims have not been released, but police said that all the people on board were on their way to a church function in Salmon Arm, British Columbia.

The plane took off from the Springbank airport in Calgary just before 9 PM, but at around 9:30 PM, contact was lost with the aircraft.

Around 1 AM on Saturday, the plane was reported overdue. This prompted the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Trenton to task a Royal Canadian Air Force CC-130 Hercules with finding the plane.

In addition to the Hercules, Alberta Parks Mountain Rescue aided with Alpine Helicopters. A Comox-based RCAF CH-149 Cormorant from the 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron was also dispatched. 

According to police, “the crew honed in on the Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) to the crash site on Mount Bogart.”

The Hercules crew located the crash site with the help of the Alberta Parks Mountain Rescue program.  They confirmed there were no survivors. All six bodies were recovered from the area on Saturday. 

Rohrer explained that investigators try to rule out factors when investigating a transportation accident. They look at weather first and then human factors, such as the pilot’s qualifications, training, and record. 

For example, TSB investigators are concerned about why the pilot chose to fly at night in a mountainous region. 

Next, investigators consider the aircraft itself and how much weight the plane was carrying. This includes baggage, passengers, and fuel. 

TSB investigators have set up a staging area at the base of Mount McGillivray, a mountain adjacent to Mount Bogart. The RCMP has secured the scene until the TSB concludes its investigation.

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