Two people found dead after small plane goes down in B.C. mountains

Two people have died after a small plane went down in the mountains northeast of Vancouver.

A Royal Canadian Air Force helicopter found the Cessna 182 in mountainous terrain about 31 kilometres northeast of Hope on Friday afternoon, the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Victoria said in a statement.

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Transportation Safety Board spokeswoman Roxanne Daouft said RCMP have confirmed that both people on board were found dead.

Their identities have not been released.

Officials with the rescue centre previously said the Cessna 182 left Calgary at about 10 a.m. Thursday, headed for Nanaimo via Kelowna, Hope and Boundary Bay.

Rescuers said an electronic locator transmitter was activated about 165 kilometres northeast of Vancouver, about an hour after the plane took off.

Low-lying clouds and rain on Friday morning made searching for the aircraft difficult.

Investigators with the safety board will be sent to the scene when conditions are no longer dangerous, which could be today or Sunday, Daouft said.

The rescue centre said the case has been turned over to the RCMP and the B.C. Coroners Service.

“The thoughts of JRCC are with the relatives of the two people who were on the plane,” the centre’s statement said.

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Earlier story

Low cloud and rugged terrain are combining to stymie the efforts of rescue crews searching for a Nanaimo-bound Cessna-182 about 145 kilometres northeast of Vancouver and just north of the Coquihalla Highway.

There are two people on board.

Maj. Justin Olsen, officer in charge of Victoria’s Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre, told gathered media Friday that the search began when the centre detected a signal from an emergency-locator transmitter on Thursday night.

“Because it was registered with the Canadian Beacon Registry, we were able to figure out very quickly which aircraft it was on, and that the aircraft was on a flight plan from the Calgary area toward Nanaimo,” he said.

Crews are doing everything they can, Olsen said.

“We’ve been trying to get into the area where the beacon was detected ever since then, but the weather’s been such that the helicopter and the Buffalo [aircraft] have not been able to actually put eyes on the search area,” he said.

“We’re still trying to determine whether we can get in there and rescue people.”

Olsen said the elevation in the search area is between 4,000 and 6,000 feet.

“The cloud cover’s been quite low,” he said. “It’s been low over the Coquihalla, there’s been rain, and it’s just not been safe to try to penetrate that cloud because there are such high mountain peaks in the area.

“It’s a very challenging area to be flying in. British Columbia has some of the most rugged terrain in all of Canada.”

Ground searchers from Emergency Management B.C. were called in but have also been unable to get to the area indicated by the beacon, Olsen said.

“The terrain’s quite steep and in consultation with them it was determined that a helicopter would be needed to insert them.”

There was a report of damaged trees that could be a clue to what happened.

“We had a civilian helicopter who suspected he saw some broken trees … in the area,” Olsen said, but searchers have not been able to confirm the sighting.

Olsen said the missing plane was well equipped with the beacon and other detection devices, helping to make the search area much smaller than it would be otherwise.

Searchers will persist, he said.

“It’s not looking very good for today, but we’ll continue putting aircraft into that area until we’re successful.”

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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