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Plane destined for Kelowna crashes in Richmond

The Transportation Safety Board is investigating after a plane crashed onto a busy street near the Vancouver International Airport, injuring all nine people on the plane.

It's not yet clear if any of those people are from the Kelowna-area.

The Beechcraft King Air 100, operated by Northern Thunderbird Air, crashed Thursday afternoon after developing a problem shortly after it took off for Kelowna. The plane turned around about 15 minutes into the flight after seeing an indication of a problem and crashed just short of the runway on Richmond's Russ Baker Way, hitting a car along the way.

All seven passengers and the two crew members were taken to hospital after passersby and rescue workers hauled them out of the burning plane.

Richmond RCMP said late Thursday that the two crew members were in "very critical condition."

The seven passengers were in serious condition late Thursday, as were the two people in the car that was hit by the plane, CBC's Lisa Johnson said. There was no word on the condition of a pedestrian who was sent to hospital after being struck by debris.

Black smoke, intense heat

Peter Johal captured footage of the burning plane as it slid along the road. He said the heat was intense as people made their way to the fiery plane.

"There were people, some Good Samaritans, they went right up to the fuselage and pulled passengers out," Johal said. "Taking the risk, not even knowing if that plane is going to blow up even more."

John Lovelace rushed to the scene when he saw the smoke. He said there was a "terrific amount" of black smoke billowing out of the plane.

"The responders only had a brief time to get the passengers out of there and the crew out of there, and they did a great job," Lovelace told CBC News.

"When I got there, everyone was out at that point -- and I got there probably 3½ to four minutes after the crash."

TSB spokesman Bill Yearwood said the plane had been cleared to land after the crew reported an indication of a problem, but he couldn't say what the problem was.

In a recording of a conversation between the pilot and air traffic controllers, the pilot sounds calm and is overheard turning down an offer for emergency services to be on scene.

"It sounded as though it was not critical at the first sign of the problem," Yearwood said. "And obviously it turned into something pretty tragic."

Lovelace, a pilot, said it looked to him as if the pilot was probably "very very close" to making a landing.

"So something catastrophically went wrong on that very very last 30 seconds of the flight," said Lovelace, who had no information on the investigation and was basing his comments on his observation of the crash site.

Bill Hess, the general manager of Northern Thunderbird Air, offered few details about the two-person crew, except to say that they were experienced and that the 41-year-old aircraft had no known mechanical problems.

"I want to know what happened," Hess said. "It just doesn't make any sense."

In 2005, two of the airline's pilots died when they crashed a similar plane into a mountain. Hess said considering the airline flies into remote locations, its safety record is excellent.

"This was to be a routine flight," said Malcolm Brodie, the mayor of Richmond. "And it ended up in such a tragic manner. However, we are hoping for a complete recovery of everybody involved, and a very speedy recovery, and that is uppermost in our mind."

Excerpts of radio communication between air traffic control and a pilot of Flight 204:

4:08 p.m. PT: Traffic controllers tell crew of Flight 204 they are "No. 1 for Runway 26," and ask to confirm if pilot "doesn't need equipment or help" on the runway. Pilot calmly responds, "Negative, everything's good here at the moment."

4:09 p.m.: Air traffic control clears pilot to land on Runway 26. Pilot calmly acknowledges with, "Cleared to land, 204."

4:11 p.m.: A loud burst of static is heard on the recording.

4:11 p.m.: Controller declares an aircraft has "pulled short" and "the runway is closed for the time being."

4:12 p.m.: Other aircraft are advised to "hold your position, we have an emergency."

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