Two men died in a plane crash Wednesday night near Manitou, Man., a small community southwest of Winnipeg.
Both men, Gilbert Bourrier, 64, and Tony Butt, 48, were from Winnipeg.
Bourrier was the pilot.
Both were members of the Springfield Flying Club for about 12 years but had been flying for more than 20 years, said Burt Barkman, a volunteer at the club.
He said members are grieving the loss of their friends.
"A lot of guys have called in. You can imagine. It's all very sad, very sad," he said.
"It's like one of your co-workers has a car accident and the chair is empty today. So what do you say?"
Their two-seater red Acrosport II biplane took off from the Manitou airport then turned back but for reasons still being investigated, the pilot lost control and the plane crashed into a lagoon, RCMP said.
The crash was reported just before 8 p.m. CT, about 1.6 kilometres north of the town, according to police.
Russell Langseth, who was on the grounds at the airport, had been speaking to Bourrier and Butt minutes before they climbed into the plane.
Langseth was curious about the craft, which he said was built from a kit and featured an open cockpit.
"I was asking him questions about his plane — just that it was small, very maneuverable," he said, adding the two men were "sittting right out in the breeze" when inside the cockpit.
The plane took off shortly afterwards and Langseth watched in shock as it crashed.
"It looked as though he started into a roll and then leveled off and then for some reason angled down into the lagoon," he said.
Several people in the area rushed to the scene but they couldn't save the two men.
"I think it was three fellows that were there ahead of me [and]
they waded out to the wreckage. You couldn't see too much of it — it was mostly submerged," Langseth said.
Witnesses were able to pull Butt from the wreckage and attempt resuscitation efforts. Bourrier remained trapped in the plane, and both men were pronounced dead just after 8 p.m.
Manitou mechanic Harry Brendle had dinner with the two men just prior to their flight. He was eating at the Spotlight Cafe when Bourrier and Butt, sitting at a nearby table, struck up a conversation with him.
Brendle described them as friendly and enthusiastic flyers who told him they had flown to Manitou from the Lyncrest Airport in southeast Winnipeg and were returning to the same strip.
They said they wanted to make it home before dark.
A short time later Brendle heard sirens and reports of a plane crash. He knew it was the two men he just met.
"Well I was quite sad. I mean they seemed like very nice guys," he said. "By the sound of it, they did work restoring planes and stuff for a museum."
The conditions were near perfect at the time of take off, Langseth noted.
"It had been a little breezy, maybe 10 to 12 miles per hour from the south, but when he took off it had dropped down to maybe half that, may five or six miles per hour at the most. So wind wasn't a factor."
'Something very spiritual about flying and aerobatics.'—Tony Butt
Two investigators from the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) are at the site trying to determine what caused the crash.
The Acrosport is an aerobatic training aircraft described on websites as "nimble in the air."
Butt had posted a photo of the plane on his Facebook page earlier this month, adding the comment: "Looking forward to watching the world go tumbling by. Something very spiritual about flying and aerobatics."
Peter Hildebrand, TSB regional manager, said the plane was manufactured in 2006 and registered and approved by Transport Canada.
Hildebrand said it looks like the pilot was doing some kind of a turning maneuver just before the crash.
"There's an east-west runway at Manitou and it took off from the west … and it was off to the west for a bit, made a turnaround back over the airport and that's when this turning maneuver occurred," he said.
Barkman watched the two men take off Wednesday from the Winnipeg landing strip and wondered why their cars were still in the parking lot when he went home later that night.
He found out Thursday morning.
Barman described both men as experienced flyers and ‘super guys.’
"Isn't that the ones that always go first? The good guys?"
He said the flying club will meet to decide how to honour their two friends.
Manitou is located about 140 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg.