Angie MindusWilliams Lake Tribune
UPDATE: The BC Coroners Service has confirmed the identity of a man who died after an air crash near Anahim Lake Monday as that of Leonard Michael Banga, 42, of Saskatoon, Sask.
Banga was a well-known Saskatoon businessman who owned Xtreme Mining and Demolition and bought Corman Air Park, south of the city in recent years. Banga also became known for a 2013 dispute with members of the Hells Angels, several of whom had been employed with his demolition company.
Banga was the pilot of a de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver airplane, which took off from the Vanderhoof airport at about 9 a.m. on Oct. 10, 2016, en route to Laidman Lake, a remote lake southwest of Vanderhoof. About 25 minutes after takeoff, the plane crashed into a heavily wooded area about 20 kilometres east of Laidman Lake. Mr. Banga was deceased at the scene. Four other persons on board the plane were rescued and transported to hospital.
Banga’s company told media that four people injured in the crash remain in hospital.
The BC Coroners Service, Transportation Safety Board and RCMP continue to investigate Banga’s death.
The aircraft had taken off from the Vanderhoof Airport at 9 a.m. Monday scheduled for a 30-minute flight to Laidman Lake when it crashed about 25 minutes into their flight, said Transportation Safety Board regional manager Bill Yearwood.
Yearwood said it is believed the 42-year-old victim was the owner of the aircraft and was piloting friends and employees to Laidman Lake, located about 80 kilometres north of Anahim Lake, on a hunting trip into the area when the aircraft lost altitude and collided with trees and terrain.
“It broke apart (on impact). The pilot, sadly, lost his life,” said Yearwood of the aircraft.
Yearwood said all four passengers survived the crash, three with minor injuries and one with serious injuries, and used their cell phone to call for help.
“(The crash site) is in the middle of nowhere and thankfully they had cell coverage,” Yearwood said.
“Everybody was able to co-ordinate a quick response.”
In a news release issued regarding the crash, police said the Burns Lake RCMP immediately activated several resources which included the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC), with CFB Comox providing a Search and Rescue Buffalo aircraft and a CH-149 Cormorant helicopter. The Vanderhoof Search and Rescue Team was also dispatched to the scene via helicopter.
BC Ambulance Services were also involved at multiple points.
The crash location was confirmed as being 120 kilometre southwest of Vanderhoof, near Moose Lake and the NuGold Mine area.
“On attendance to the crash site, three CFB Comox SAR technicians parachuted from the Buffalo aircraft into the site to provide First Aid to survivors. All four survivors were extracted from the crash site in rescue baskets lowered from the helicopter. The Vanderhoof SAR technicians were able to land near the site and able to extricate the body of the 42-year-old deceased pilot from the wreckage. The pilot’s body was transported out of the site by the Vanderhoof SAR Team on behalf of the BC Coroners Services,” stated RCMP Cpl Dan Moskaluk.
Yearwood said all of the survivors were transported to nearby Anahim Lake, where an EHS helicopter was standing by.
Three of the injured were transported to the Lower Mainland and one to Kamloops for medical treatment, all via BCAS Medi-Vac aircraft.
The injured men were 50, 47, 36 and 30 years of age and all believed to be from Saskatoon, Sask.
Yearwood said the aircraft was an amphibious de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver.
He said three TSB investigators were at the crash site Tuesday examining the wreckage, debris field and scars in the terrain.
“We can learn from there what may have happened.”
The Burns Lake and Anahim Lake RCMP are continuing to assist the BC Coroners Services and the Transportation Safety Board with their investigation into the crash and the man’s death.