Police have released the names of the pilots and passenger of the two planes that collided at 1,500 feet just east of Mission Wednesday afternoon.
The two victims from the Cessna 150 that crashed into Nicomen Slough are passenger Patrick Lobsinger, age 70, from Surrey and Don Hubble, age 60 from Langley who was the pilot.
The pilot of the second plane that made a emergency landing in the field was Paul Knapp from Pitt Meadows.
Ron Smit was driving home from work when he heard about the crash, and being a pilot himself, headed towards the site, near Waring Road and Lougheed Highway. The second plane, which carried the deceased male, crashed into Nicomen Slough.
When Smit arrived on Waring, he saw a Cessna 150 in the field and realized he knew the pilot, then went over and spoke with his friend
Mission RCMP officer comforts Paul Knapp who was the pilot of plane that made emergency landing in field following mid-air collision.<BR
John Van Putten Photo
Pilot walks away from plane with RCMP officer while Canadian Forces Search and Rescue personnel from CH-149 Cormorant look over plane with RCMP.<BR
John Van Putten Photo
The pilot said he was flying with three other planes and lost sight of the other aircraft when one suddenly flew into his aircraft at speeds Smit estimated would have been 100 mph (160 km/h). The planes hit, locked together, then spiralled out of control and headed towards the ground.
Smit said his friend worked the controls and tried to disconnect the planes. At about 500 feet, the planes came apart and the pilot surprisingly found all his controls were functional. He was able to shut off the fuel, power down the plane, restart, then make an emergency landing into the field.
The other plane crashed into the slough, and according to Mission RCMP Sgt. Miriam Dickson, one of the two occupants in the aircraft perished. The other was taken to Royal Columbian Hospital via air ambulance and died later in the evening.
Martin Krol, doing construction work at a house near the crash site, said he felt the floor shake.
“I heard a big bang,” he said.
One eyewitness reported seeing four planes flying over Mission in a diamond formation, just before the crash.
Dickson advised late Wednesday night that Transport Canada investigators were going en route and that Mounties would secure the scene overnight.
On Thursday morning, Langley Airport manager George Miller was preparing to meet with representatives from the Transportation Safety Board as they try to piece together details of the tragedy.
Miller said the small formation team flies out of the Langley airfield on a regular basis and has taken part in Remembrance Day fly-overs in the area for the past half dozen years.
A former RCAF pilot who flies with his own aerobatics team — the Fraser Blues Formation Demonstration team — which he started nearly 14 years ago, Miller said it’s impossible to know exactly what went wrong on Wednesday afternoon over Mission where the team was known to practise regularly.
“There are many (possible) scenarios. I can’t speculate on what might have happened.”
Things could have gone wrong while the planes were in a routine or while they were entering or leaving formation, he said.
But because the second plane landed safely, Miller is certain the facts will be gathered fairly quickly.
“There’s a good chance to get to the bottom of this because there are survivors, considering the facts should be well known by those people,” he said.
Although Miller knows the people involved in the crash he declined to name anyone until the identities of the victims had been officially released.
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