Pilot of small plane in fiery crash outside Vancouver airport dies

The pilot of a small plane that crashed outside Vancouver’s airport has died after his aircraft burst into flames on a road in rush-hour traffic.

VANCOUVER — The pilot of a small plane that crashed outside Vancouver’s airport has died after his aircraft burst into flames on a road in rush-hour traffic.

Luc Fortin, 44, of North Vancouver, suffered fatal fire-related injuries, the B.C. Coroners Service said Friday.

Fortin was piloting a plane that was carrying eight other people on a trip to Kelowna, B.C., when he attempted to return to the runway Thursday afternoon.

He died in hospital at about 9 p.m., five hours after the crash.

In the few minutes before fire crews arrived, frantic bystanders tried to pull the passengers and crew from the burning Beechcraft King Air 100. The plane was operated by Northern Thunderbird Air, based in Prince George, B.C.

The Vancouver Coastal Health Authority said two passengers are in intensive care and four people are in serious but stable condition.

RCMP said two people on the ground were also hurt, but couldn’t say if they were walking on the road or in a vehicle.

As Fortin flew back to the airport Thursday, he seemed calm and told an air traffic controller he didn’t need any emergency equipment or help, according to a recording on LiveATC.net, a website of global air-traffic control communication.

“We’re good here at the moment,” he said.

Bill Yearwood, the lead investigator for the Transportation Safety Board, said everything appeared to be normal as the plane approached the runway.

“But just short of the airport perimeter the aircraft banked sharply to the left, turned 90 degrees and crashed about 900 metres short of the runway,” he told a news conference Friday.

The plane slammed into a lamppost and hit a car before crashing on a Richmond, B.C., road and catching fire, Yearwood said.

He said the oil light, or caution light, triggered the return to the airport, but the pilot didn’t consider that to be a critical problem.

The cockpit voice recorder will be sent to Ottawa for examination. The plane was removed from the street early Friday and is being analyzed at an airport hangar.

Malcolm Brodie, the mayor of Richmond, said he’s saddened by the pilot’s death.

“That is tragic, and obviously our hearts go out to that person and their family and loved ones, and also (to) the other victims of this crash. It’s just a horrific event.”

Brodie said he’s asked the federal government several times to consider moving smaller planes to other regional airports.

“It just seems to me that if you have these huge airliners that are using YVR, once you get to a certain point you should start channelling the other planes to other locales,” he said.

Thursday’s crash was the third such incident involving a small plane in recent years.

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