4 dead after mid-air crash north of Whistler
Witnesses at Nairn Falls Provincial Park campground area took cover as debris fell from the sky
Four people are dead after a collision involving a glider and a small plane near Pemberton, B.C., north of Whistler, on Saturday afternoon around 12:20 p.m. PT.
Second Lt. Erin Edwards with the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Victoria said crews have recovered the bodies of the pilots and passengers from a two-seat glider and a Cessna 150, both of which fell into the area of Nairn Falls Provincial Park.
Whistler RCMP Sgt. Rob Knapton said that a man, a woman, and a dog had been on board the Cessna, which was from 100 Mile House, a community about 200 kilometres northeast of Whistler. Two other occupants had been in the powered glider, which was based out of Pemberton.
Knapton said that police have notified the next of kin, but the victims' names are not being released at this time.
Knapton said the collision happened over a busy park and campground, and more people could easily have been hurt or killed in the accident.
"I understand that that campsite has over 90 units and was full at the time of this incident," Knapton said in a written statement. "Luckily, no one was struck by the debris, although I understand that some debris fell within 20 feet of some guests."
Witness describes 'brutal' scene
One man who witnessed the immediate aftermath of the crash described hearing a "big bang" and then seeing a glider spiral down to the ground.
Dan Wall, who was on a bike trail near the park campground, which about 50 kilometres north of Whistler, said the trees were so tall that he couldn't properly see what happened in the air. However, after the loud noise, he and his companions saw a plane moving over the trees, and a glider falling.
"The glider hit the ground. You could hear it. You could see the debris in the air, so people started taking cover," he said.
One of Wall's companions is a search-and-rescue volunteer, so the group headed towards the wreck of the glider. The glider came down just outside the campground, near a park maintenance area.
Wall stood back, but said there was visible fire, and witnesses grabbed small fire extinguishers from the maintenance area and started putting it out.
He did not see anyone being pulled from the gliders, but also said he didn't want to get in the way and didn't go very close.
"The glider scene was... it was pretty brutal," he said.
Wall said he did not know what happened to the small plane that he saw fly overhead after hearing the initial bang.
"Apparently, from what we heard from firefighters that arrived on scene, the plane had continued on and actually crash-landed on the opposite side of Green River, which runs alongside the campground," Wall said.
The Transportation Safety Board confirmed it has sent investigators to the crash sites, and will be launching an investigation.
With files from the CBC's Theresa Lalonde and Chad Pawson and The Canadian Press