Picture Butte pilot in Tofino crash 'new to this particular plane'

The 25-year-old Picture Butte pilot who died with his father in a plane crash Saturday near Tofino didn't have a lot of experience but was licensed, according to search and rescue officials.

51-year-old Jurrie and 25-year-old Mike Vandenberg named as victims Sunday

The Cessna 421 with tail number C-GFMX is pictured in a 2008 photo taken at Edmonton Airport. The plane was reported missing Saturday, Dec. 14 after leaving Abbotsford airport in B.C. bound for Tofino on Vancouver Island. The wreckage was located Sunday on Vargas Island, near Tofino. The father and son aboard the plane did not survive. (Ray Barber/Airport-Data.com)

The 25-year-old Picture Butte pilot who died with his father in a plane crash Saturday near Tofino didn't have a lot of experience but was licensed, according to search and rescue officials.

Mike Vandenberg and his 51-year-old father, Jurrie apparently crashed while approaching the Tofino airport during bad weather. The wreckage of their Cessna 421 B was found on Vargas Island, a short distance northwest of Tofino, on Sunday after bad weather forced rescue crews to stop searching on Saturday.

"He didn't have a lot of hours under his belt but was sufficient," said Capt. Ray Jacobson with the Canadian Coast Guard's Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Victoria. "I think he was new to this particular plane."

The family owns Porcupine Corral Cleaning in Picture Butte and is well-known in the town.

According to a former mayor, the announcement of their deaths was made Sunday morning at a local church.

He says prayers were said for the family and that members of the community are still processing the news.

The family declined to comment when contacted by CBC News.

Rescue crews, including a Cormorant helicopter, were forced to stop Saturday afternoon because of bad weather.

According to Jacobson, thick fog and low-lying clouds were probably a big factor in the crash.

"Weather certainly appears to be the No. 1 factor," he said.

Combined with what Jacobson described as "limited approach aids" at the Tofino airport, it's possible those factors are what brought down the plane. 

Officials from the Transportation Safety Board are expected to arrive in Tofino Monday and their investigation will determine the cause of the crash.

'Nothing left' of plane

RCMP on Vancouver Island say the flight plan that had been filed indicated the small, two-engine plane left Lethbridge for Tofino, with a stop in Abbotsford, B.C., on Saturday.

"There's nothing left," said Jaconson. Both men's remains were located and Jacobson says they would have died instantly.

The search began shortly after 2:30 p.m. MT Saturday afternoon when the plane failed to arrive in Tofino, but no beacon signal was detected and the search effort was hampered by bad weather, poor visibility and approaching nightfall.

Jacobson said that around 8:30 a.m. MT Sunday morning, the crew aboard a Canadian Forces Comorant helicopter from Royal Canadian Air Force's 19 Wing Comox spotted the crash site, which is roughly 2,000 feet inland from the south side of Vargas Island.

Four search and rescue technicians were lowered from the helicopter onto the island and found the wreckage in a treed area at what appeared to be a large impact crater.

Jacobson said it took the technicians an hour to positively identify what was left of the plane as the wreckage of C-GFMX, the missing plane.

Data collected by flight tracker FlightAware.com shows the approximate path of the Cessna 421 B aircraft's final flight from Abbotsford, B.C., in the east, to the Tofino area, on the west coast of Vancouver Island. The points shown are grouped by colour by approximate altitude. Click on a point for more information recorded by FlightAware.


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