World

Canadian pilot killed in small plane crash in Panama City

Authorities in Panama say a pilot from Saskatchewan has died after his small plane crashed shortly after takeoff.

Ron Simard was an aviation enthusiast who built and flew experimental planes

Ron Simard, of Meadow Lake, Sask., died Wednesday after his small plane crashed shortly after takeoff near Panama City, Panama. (Ron Simard/Facebook)

Authorities in Panama say a pilot from Saskatchewan has died after his small plane crashed shortly after takeoff.

The director of Panama's civil aviation authority identified the pilot as Ron Simard, who CBC has confirmed is from Meadow Lake, Sask.

Alfredo Fonseco Mora told CBC News in Spanish that Simard had been living in Chame, in southwest Panama with his wife.

"He was passionate about aviation," Mora said. "He built experimental models and this was a case where he was using his plane."

Mora said Simard had built the NXT plane and had been flying it for approximately five years.

"These are things that happen sometimes with experimental planes," Mora said. "This plane is a very fast plane, it has a powerful engine."

These are things that happen sometimes with experimental planes.- Alfredo Fonseco Mora, director of Panama's civil aviation authority

Video published by local media show the aircraft plunging into the ground Wednesday after lifting off from the Marcos A. Gelabert airport, next to a shopping mall in Panama City.

Mora wouldn't speculate on what caused the crash, but said there is an ongoing investigation.

He said he'd known Simard for about eight years and described him as an enthusiastic member of Panama's aviation community.

"Ron was a great guy, a very pleasant person, he would always share his knowledge to whoever wanted to listen," Mora said.

Global Affairs Canada confirmed the death, with a spokesperson saying, "Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of the Canadian citizen that passed away in Panama."

"Consular officials stand ready to provide consular assistance to family as required. To protect the privacy of the family concerned, further details on this case cannot be released."

With files from Paulina Abad and The Associated Press