British Columbia

Richmond plane crash leaves pilot dead

RCMP have confirmed that the pilot of a plane that crashed on a busy street near the Vancouver International Airport on Thursday afternoon has died.

Investigators say pilot reported oil indicator light had come on

Plane crash update


9 years ago
The RCMP say everyone aboard a small plane that crashed in B.C. survived, but some are in critical condition, reports the CBC's Lisa Johnson 4:37


  • RCMP reports normal traffic flow has resumed on Russ Baker Way as of 4:30 a.m. PT
  • The Dinsmore and the No. 2 Road Bridge have reopened

RCMP have confirmed that the pilot of a plane that crashed on a busy street near the Vancouver International Airport on Thursday afternoon has died.

The pilot, Luc Fortin, 44, from North Vancouver, was one of nine people pulled from the burning wreckage by passersby and firefighters minutes after the crash.

"Despite all possible medical efforts, he was pronounced dead at Vancouver General Hospital about five hours later, at 9:10 p.m.," said a statement released by the B.C. Coroners office on Friday morning.

All seven passengers on the plane and the two crew members were taken to hospital. Two people remained in critical condition, four were in stable condition and two others were discharged overnight, officials with Vancouver Coastal Health said on Friday morning.

On Friday afternoon, RCMP confirmed that two passengers in a car that was hit by the plane were treated at the scene of the crash.

Co-pilot Mike Rubic is among those listed in critical condition.

Oil indicator light came on

The Beechcraft King Air 100, operated by Northern Thunderbird Air, crashed Thursday afternoon after developing a problem shortly after it took off for Kelowna.

On Friday morning Transportation Safety Board spokesman Bill Yearwood said the pilot reported he had an oil indicator light, so he requested to land.

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The plane turned around about 15 minutes into the flight. On its approach, the aircraft banked sharply left and crashed 900 metres short of the runway on Richmond's Russ Baker Way, hitting a lamp post and a car, said Yearwood

Yearwood said the plane went nose down at the time of the crash, but it appear the propellers were moving at impact. 

In a recording of a conversation between the pilot and air traffic controllers, the pilot sounds calm and is overheard turning down an offer for emergency services to be on scene.

"It sounded as though it was not critical at the first sign of the problem," Yearwood said. "And obviously it turned into something pretty tragic."

The burned-out wreckage of the aircraft was removed from the roadway overnight and traffic in the area had returned to normal as of 4:30 a.m. PT, the RCMP said on Friday.

The cockpit voice recorder was in good shape and had already been sent to Ottawa for analysis, and the air traffic control tapes were also being used in the investigation, he said.

Black smoke, intense heat

After the crash, some people left their cars in the middle of the road and ran to the fiery crash to pull out the passengers and carry them away from the burning plane.

'Everything's good,' pilot said

Excerpts of radio communication between air traffic control and a pilot of Flight 204:

4:08 p.m. PT: Traffic controllers tell crew of Flight 204 they are "No. 1 for Runway 26," and ask to confirm if pilot "doesn't need equipment or help" on the runway. Pilot calmly responds, "Negative, everything's good here at the moment."

4:09 p.m.: Air traffic control clears pilot to land on Runway 26. Pilot calmly acknowledges with, "Cleared to land, 204."

4:11 p.m.: A loud burst of static is heard on the recording.

4:12 p.m.: Other aircraft are advised to "hold your position, we have an emergency."

Steve Baran, who works for Canada Post at the airport, said he helped get people out of the flaming wreck.

"I pulled the nose cone down and one after another we just pulled passengers out real quick," said Baran.

"Then I noticed there was no white shirt like a pilot shirt. Then the brigade from YVR shows up and starts spraying the aircraft and very quickly subdued it, and then I saw them working on the windshield of the aircraft trying to get the pilots out," he said.

Hundreds of other people saw the crash, including Nikoli Jensen, who was walking home when the plane came down.

"The plane was on fire. I was full of adrenaline and I had to jump over the ditch to be safe," said Jensen.

Chris Yuen was cycling home at the time.

"I got out of the way as quickly as I could. It was on fire and it was really hot," he said.

Pilot Luc Fortin poses in this Facebook photograph with his wife. (Facebook)
Peter Johal captured footage of the burning plane as it slid along the road. He said the heat was intense as people made their way to the fiery plane.

"There were people, some Good Samaritans, they went right up to the fuselage and pulled passengers out," Johal said. "Taking the risk, not even knowing if that plane is going to blow up even more."

John Lovelace rushed to the scene when he saw the smoke. He said there was a "terrific amount" of black smoke billowing out of the plane.

"The responders only had a brief time to get the passengers out of there and the crew out of there, and they did a great job," Lovelace told CBC News.

"When I got there, everyone was out at that point — and I got there probably 3½ to four minutes after the crash."

No sign of problems

Lovelace, a pilot, said it looked to him as if the pilot was probably "very very close" to making a landing.

"So something catastrophically went wrong on that very very last 30 seconds of the flight," said Lovelace, who had no information on the investigation and was basing his comments on his observation of the crash site.

Bill Hess, the general manager of Northern Thunderbird Air, offered few details about the two-person crew, except to say that they were experienced and that the 41-year-old aircraft had no known mechanical problems.

"I want to know what happened," Hess said. "It just doesn't make any sense."

Co-pilot Matt Robic is listed in critical condition in Vancouver General Hospital. (CBC)
In 2005, two of the airline's pilots died when they crashed a similar plane into a mountain. Hess said considering the airline flies into remote locations, its safety record is excellent.

"This was to be a routine flight," said Malcolm Brodie, the mayor of Richmond. "And it ended up in such a tragic manner. However, we are hoping for a complete recovery of everybody involved, and a very speedy recovery, and that is uppermost in our mind."

With files from CBC's Curt Petrovich and The Canadian Press