News

UPDATED: Two men dead in plane crash at golf course

Two men died on Saturday when their small aircraft crashed shortly after takeoff.

The fatal mishap happened at about 7 p.m. as the small home-built amphibious plane was taking off from Nanaimo Airport.

Michael Cyril Weir, 73, from Salt Spring Island, and Gerald Paul Thom, 50, from Youbou, died in the crash.

“The aircraft stalled on takeoff and crashed upside down on the fairway,” said Ron Gueullette, chief of Cranberry Volunteer Fire Department.

Cranberry firefighters removed the victims from crash scene before the wreckage was transported to a secure shelter at Nanaimo Airport later that night for inspection.

Bill Yearwood, Transportation Safety Board investigator, was told by witnesses the craft lifted off, then appeared to suddenly lose altitude before making a sharp left turn.

“It then made a very steep descent, nose-down, and hit the ground,” Yearwood said.

The plane crashed near the 14th hole of Cottonwood Golf Course, close to the airport and golf course property line.

Trent Kaese, golf course owner, said there were golfers on the 13th and 15th holes, but fortunately no one playing near where the craft impacted.

“Fourteen happened to be empty and [the crash] was off to the side in the rough too, so it wasn’t a critical spot, possibly, even if someone had been on the fairway,” Kaese said. “Obviously we’re just concerned for the families. That’s the sad part of it.”

Yearwood said the Avid Amphibian aircraft was owned by the two men on board and that they had built the craft together on Salt Spring Island. It had been based at Nanaimo Airport since December.

“The aircraft is a two-seater flying boat and it’s powered by an air-cooled, Volkswagen four-cylinder engine that has been modified for aviation use,” Yearwood said.

Yearwood said he found no obvious cause for the crash during his initial inspection Sunday, but by the condition of the propeller it appeared the aircraft was not under full power when it struck the ground.

Yearwood said he is also interested in seeing any video footage from anyone who might have been filming at the airport.

Nanaimo Airport staff is also reviewing surveillance camera footage.

photos@nanaimobulletin.com

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