WINNIPEG — Four fatal air crashes in less than a year in Manitoba have air crash investigators wanting to see if there is some type of link between them.
Peter Hildebrand, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada’s regional director, said on Tuesday that the latest tragic crash — which killed an adult and three children in southwestern Manitoba — has everyone wanting to get more answers on it and other recent crashes.
“Our mandate is to advance transportation safety so if that’s our mandate we want to do something about that,” Hildebrand said.
“We want to see if there is something out there that has changed. I don’t know the answers now, but at the outset of our investigation you don’t rule out anything.”
Darren Spence, 37, a crop duster based in southwestern Manitoba, was at the controls of the plane when it crashed just outside Waskada on Sunday, killing him, his sons, 10-year-old Gage and nine-year-old Logan, and a friend of the boys’, nine-year-old Dawson Pentecost.
Hildebrand said the latest crash has been made more difficult because it is winter, meaning investigators have to thaw out some of the plane’s equipment before they can begin seeing if they played any role in the tragedy.
“I know already there doesn’t seem to be some sort of link, but the numbers are enough to cause us to look at what’s happening,” he said.
“Who knows what we might find?”
Al Graham, an 81-year-old pilot from Gimli, was flying his float plane to his remote cabin at Kapekun Lake when he crashed in the lake in May. His body was later recovered.
Gilbert Bourrier, 64, and Tony Butt, 48, both of Winnipeg, were killed in a plane crash near Manitou in southwestern Manitoba in August. The two men were taking off in a two-seat, open-cockpit biplane bound for Winnipeg when it crashed into the community lagoon.
Pilot Mark Gogal died and seven passengers were injured when a Cessna 208 crashed near the Snow Lake airport in November.
Hildebrand said there was one fatal crash in Manitoba in 2010 and another in 2011, but last year there were three and this year already there has been one.
“Maybe it is a statistical blip, but we will look into it,” he said.
Hildebrand said one fairly common cause of crashes has already been ruled out.
“There was sufficient fuel in the plane — there was no problem with that,” he said.
Hildebrand said once the TSB investigation is complete they will be sending a report to Transport Canada.
Brian Williamson, a Transport Canada spokesman, said in a statement that the country’s aviation authority “takes all transportation accidents seriously and we are co-operating fully with the Transportation Safety Board in its investigation.
“Once the investigation is complete, Transport Canada will thoroughly review the TSB’s report to identify any areas to improve.”
Williamson said Transport Canada will continue to work with the TSB “to do all we can to maintain and enhance the safety of Canada’s air sector.”
Transport Canada documents show that the plane Spence was flying, built in 1963, had been registered by a Virden-based crop dusting company just one month before the crash after being transferred from a Saskatchewan crop dusting company.
The records also show the company owns five other planes including a Cessna A118B.
» Winnipeg Free Press