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The plane erupted into a ball of fire upon impact, killing the pilot, a 59-year-old Kelowna, B.C., man, and his passenger, a man from the Port Moody area, 55. (Castanet.net)

The B.C. Coroner's service has confirmed the identity of two men killed Saturday afternoon in a plane crash in Vernon, B.C. 

The pilot was James Langley, 59, from Kelowna and his passenger Karim Makalai, 53, from Port Moody, said coroner Robert Fisher in a statement.

The twin engine Piper PA-23 crashed in a sports field shortly after taking off from the Vernon airport on Saturday afternoon.

The aircraft was based at the Kelowna International Airport, where there has been an ongoing marmot problem.

Local flying club member and pilot Ray Young estimated 80 per cent of aircraft have had some damage from the rodents and said he suspected that might have caused the crash.

But investigators with the Transportation Safety Board of Canada investigators have begun examining the wreckage and say it is unlikely marmots damaged the plane components, although they are investigating the possibility.

Airport dismisses suggestion marmots caused crash

Airport manager Sam Samadar confirms staff has been working to deal with the marmot population.

"You have wide open spaces here, you have water you have shelter you have food. All these things attract wildlife, so we have an active program to capture, to live capture and release the marmots, and that program has been going on for some time," said Samadar.

"That marmot activity has actually gone down over the years, not up."

But he agrees that it's unlikely the crash was caused by the airport's marmot problem.

"In this particular case to make a conjecture of this incident relating directly to marmots on an airfield is frankly absolutely ridiculous," he said.

"In my experience, and I've been in the aviation business for a long time, it's normally a series of things that lead up to a catastrophic accident or incident."

The results of the Transportation Safety Board investigation are expected to take several months.

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With files from the CBC's Leia Hutchings