Ottawa

Investigators don't know why plane hit tree in August crash that killed 2 people

Investigators can't determine why a plane flew slightly to the left of a private air strip in Port Hope, Ont., during takeoff in August, then collided with a tree and crashed, killing two people from Ottawa.

Port Hope, Ont., air strip where crash happened now closed, says Transportation Safety Board of Canada

A damaged plane wing on the ground with an arrow pointing to it. A box says 'Damage on leading edge from tree impact.'
This is the left wing of the plane that first hit a tree near Port Hope, Ont., Aug. 13, 2022. Two people from Ottawa were killed. (Transportation Safety Board of Canada)

Investigators can't determine why a plane flew slightly to the left of a private air strip in Port Hope, Ont., during takeoff in August, then collided with a tree and crashed, killing two people from Ottawa.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) does say in a report published Tuesday that trees had grown closer to the runway in recent years and that this aerodrome is now closed.

The plane's two occupants — 74-year-old Alvin Crosby and 72-year-old Suzanne Parent — were pronounced dead at the scene on Aug. 13, Ontario Provincial Police said at the time. They had been flying back to Ottawa.

The crash occurred around 8:15 p.m. that evening on a private air strip about 100 kilometres east of downtown Toronto: Canton Aerodrome, near Kellogg and Massey roads, according to the TSB report.

The plane was about 425 metres down the runway and eight metres in the air when its left wing hit a tree about 12 metres to the left of the middle line of the 24 metre-wide runway. The plane veered left, struck more trees and hit the ground nearly nose-first.

Crosby and Parent were killed despite wearing safety belts with shoulder harnesses, the TSB said.

A Google Map screengrab with labels indicating where the plane hit trees and crashed.
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada put together an illustration of what happened where. (Transportation Safety Board of Canada)

The air strip had not been regularly used for about five years before this crash, according to the TSB. Trees had grown closer to the runway over the previous four years, "likely reducing the opening over the Runway 14 departure end," the report said.

The pilot had only taken off from the airstrip twice before, most recently in October 2019, it said.

About a month after the crash, the TSB said Transport Canada received written notice that the aerodrome was closed.

No malfunction evidence, no data recorder

The plane had its annual inspection in March of this year, it was within its weight and balance limits, and weather was "suitable" for this kind of flight, said the TSB.

It found the pilot had a valid licence, and about 190 of their 600 flying hours were done in that plane.

To the extent it could look over the damaged equipment, the agency couldn't find evidence any of a malfunction. The plane didn't have a data recorder and wasn't required to have one.

"Given the absence of data, the investigation could not determine the complete sequence of events that led to the aircraft deviating slightly to the left during takeoff, which resulted in the impact with a tree followed by a loss of control and collision with terrain," the report ends.

The TSB considered this a Class 4 occurrence on a six-step scale. This type of investigation may involve serious injuries and moderate damage and draw attention from the public, but the agency said the likelihood of finding new safety lessons (which is its mandate) is low.

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