British Columbia

Pilot likely unconscious in 2007 crash: report

The Transportation Safety Board says an elderly pilot likely blacked-out before crashing into a Richmond high-rise nearly two years ago, killing him and injuring two occupants of the building.

The Transportation Safety Board says an elderly pilot likely blacked-out before crashing into a Richmond, B.C., high-rise nearly two years ago, killing himself and injuring two occupants in the building.

Peter Garrison's Piper Seneca slammed into the ninth floor of the Rosario Gardens condominium tower about three kilometers from Vancouver airport on the evening of October 19, 2007.

The plane had just taken off in an easterly direction from the airport.

Garrison was 82, suffered from diabetes, hypertension and was obese when his plane crashed and those medical conditions likely led to the accident, according to a board report issued late Tuesday.

"The pilot had pre-existing health factors, making it possible that he suffered an acute medical event resulting in incapacitation and a loss of control of the aircraft," the report said.

The report also cites an apparently incorrect setting of the aircraft's flight controls as a contributing factor to the crash.

"With the pitch trim at an inappropriate setting, the aircraft accelerated in a descent below the height of the building and collided with it," the report said.

The pitch trim setting can determine whether the aircraft will ascend or descend if the pilot is not exerting any pressure on the control column. As it's believed likely Garrison was not conscious at the time of the crash, the setting helped put the aircraft into a descent.

The aircraft was in a slow descent and was accelerating, reaching 280 km/h at the time of impact, the report said.

The report said there was no evidence to suggest the pilot intentionally flew into the building.

"There was no post-impact fire. The aircraft entered a suite occupied by two people; one received serious non-life-threatening injuries, the other received minor injuries. Structural damage to the building was minimal, but there was extensive water damage from the fire suppression system. As a result, hundreds of people were displaced from their homes for extended periods," the report said.

Pilot had crashed plane three times before

The report also said Garrison had crashed the same aircraft three times before over the previous 30 years, but said the plane was airworthy at the time of the 2007 crash.

He was cleared to fly by a doctor just a few months before the accident, but the report found Garrison did not tell the doctor about all of his medical problems.

Safety board spokesman Bill Yearwood said there are no age restrictions for pilots, but told CBC News Tuesday that this case could open the door for tougher rules around the licensing of pilots.