Plane crash rescuer says he 'didn't have a plan'

One of the men who rushed toward the burning plane crash in Richmond, B.C., Thursday said he didn't think twice about helping people he was sure were trapped inside the aircraft.
The CBC's Aarti Pole has a one-on-one interview with a bystander who helped pull passengers out of a burning plane in Richmond, B.C. 4:05

One of the men who rushed toward a burning plane in Richmond, B.C., last Thursday said he didn't think twice about helping people he was sure were trapped inside the aircraft.

Jeremy Kerr was driving near the airport when he saw the plane crash onto a city street, nearly one kilometre short of the runways at Vancouver International Airport.

"I jumped my Jeep up onto the curb and I ran toward the aircraft," Kerr told CBC News in an interview Tuesday. "I don't know exactly what was going through my head when I was doing that … I knew there had to be people on board. I didn't have any plan."

Kerr said a door on the plane opened just as he got to it.

"There were a couple of other rescuers arriving as well, and the door sort of fell open and a gentleman kind of stumbled out, and so we instantly helped him off [the wing] and there was another gentleman that we also helped out as well."

Kerr said he and the other rescuers knew they were walking on the airplane's fuel on the ground all around them and the front of the plane was intensely on fire.

"The flames were massive. You knew this could blow," he said. "Something really bad could happen really quickly and it was a matter of just speed. Get these people away as fast as possible. If it were my loved ones, I would hope someone would do that for them.

"We knew it was dangerous, what's happening, but the people are moving and the fire crews weren't there yet, we didn't hear them [coming], so we had to extract them, particularly when someone was screaming from [behind us], 'The plane's  going to blow up!' They just had to come out," he said.

Kerr said he felt guilty about not getting the pilots out of the plane, but said the small band of rescuers decided not to go into the aircraft to try to get them because firefighters had just arrived and started soaking the airplane in foam.

The fire crew took another 20 minutes to free the pilots, who were trapped by the damage to the front of the plane.

Pilot Luc Fortin, 44, of North Vancouver, died about five hours after the crash. The co-pilot remains in hospital with serious burns to much of his body.

The flight, bound for Kelowna, B.C., had turned back shortly after takeoff from Vancouver after an indicator light alerted the pilots of the two-engine Beechcraft King Air 100 that there was a problem with one of the engines.

An investigation into the cause of the crash continues.

Government to honour rescuers

B.C. Premier Christy Clark said earlier Tuesday the province will honour the men who risked their lives to pull passengers from the plane.

The reception will be held at the parliament buildings in Victoria after Clark returns from an Asian trade mission later in November.

Clark said the rescuers who put themselves in danger deserve to be publicly thanked.

"When you consider the harrowing circumstances and the grave danger these people put themselves in to save others, it's clear they deserve our deepest thanks. Without their quick-thinking responses, there is no doubt the tragedy of this incident would have been compounded," said Clark.

Solicitor General Shirley Bond said officials are working to identify those involved in the rescue.

"Emergency Management BC is working with the Richmond Fire Department to identify all those who helped to minimize loss of life in this tragic crash, and I would encourage the heroes, or anyone who is aware of them, to please contact either agency," said Bond.