Vancouver Island-bound floatplane ‘reportedly made contact’ with object in water before fatal crash: TSB

Vancouver Island-bound floatplane 'reportedly made contact' with object in water before fatal crash: TSB
Google Earth, with TSB annotations
Map showing the aircraft track, with cabin and accident locations. The crash happened June 20, 2023.

When a floatplane landing in waters northwest of Tofino made contact with something in Tahsis Narrows, it bounced several feet before colliding with trees and crashing, leaving two dead and two injured, according to the Transportation Safety Board.

The plane then burst into flames, and witnesses told CHEK News they saw the plume of smoke as emergency responders, including coast guard, arrived on scene.

The TSB, in an investigation report released Wednesday, says the June 20, 2023, crash involved one pilot and three passengers aboard a Quest Kodiak 100 aircraft, which departed Masset Airport (CZMT) for West Vancouver Island.

Around 12:46 p.m., while en route, the pilot switched from instrument flight rules (IFR) to visual flight rules (VFR), the TSB says in the report. VFR is known for more simplicity and freedom while flying and is ideal in clear weather conditions.

The plane was to land close to a cabin approximately 111 kilometres northwest of Tofino/Long Beach Airport (CYAZ), and the pilot “followed an inlet (Tahsis Narrows) toward the destination and continued for a straight-in landing on the water…” the TSB says.

It says both floats touched the surface of the water simultaneously. The plane bounced, and when the pilot approached the surface a second time, the left float “reportedly made contact with either a boat wake or object,” reads the report.

“The force of the contact resulted in the aircraft bouncing to a height of approximately 30 feet and banking to the right,” it says.

“The pilot initiated a go-around. At 1337 (1:37 p.m.), during the initial climb over land, the aircraft contacted trees and then impacted the terrain.”

Post-impact fire

Four people were aboard the plane that was destroyed in a post-impact fire, according to the TSB. The pilot and one passenger died, while another passenger suffered serious injuries, and the other’s injuries were minor.

Both were flown to CFB Comox by Joint Rescue Coordination Centre and Canadian Armed Forces personnel before paramedics transported them to hospital.

JUNE 2023 STORY: Two dead, two rescued after plane crash on west coast of Vancouver Island

Flight records show an emergency locator beacon was activated, leading response crews to the scene of the crash.

“The emergency locator transmitter signal was received by the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Victoria, BC. The Canadian Coast Guard, Canadian Armed Forces search and rescue, the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police), and fire personnel responded,” reads the report.

A witness, Allison Stiglitz, applauded the responders for their quick response time, telling CHEK News last June, “They were very fast.”

At first, she thought the smoke was from a forest fire, so she alerted authorities.

“I was taking my nephew for a hike, and we came around the corner here, and we saw the smoke, so we just parked up there and called it in,” she added.

The crash did, in fact, ignite a forest fire.

The BC Wildfire Service listed the fire at 0.04 hectares at the time. Not long after, it was classified as under control and wasn’t expected to spread further.

Familiar with Tahsis Narrows

The pilot had landed once before at the same location, just five days prior to the crash, notes the TSB. It says they had more than 1,200 total flight hours and held a private pilot licence endorsed for VFR over-the-top flying.

“According to information gathered during the investigation, there was no indication that the pilot’s performance was affected by medical or physiological factors.”

The TSB says the sea had small waves at the time of landing. The wind was from four to six knots, which is a “light breeze,” the Government of Canada explains.

The safety board adds that “winds in mountain ranges can be very unpredictable, and downdrafts are not uncommon.” Weather information for the crash location was not available, but “due to the mountainous terrain, it is possible that wind shear and/or downdrafts were present in the area at the time of the accident.”

TSB safety message

The registered owner of the single-engine turbine aircraft, manufactured in 2009, was Cameron Robinson of Sherwood Park, Alta., CHEK News learned last June.

The TSB says there were no issues with the plane.

“The investigation did not identify any issues related to the aircraft’s equipment or maintenance that would have prevented it from operating normally during the occurrence flight,” it added. “Owing to damage from the fire, the TSB was unable to determine the engine control position or condition of the floats.

“The propeller blade damage was consistent with the engine producing power at the time of impact. The wheels were retracted.”

The TSB concluded its report with a reminder for pilots. It says it’s important that, before landing, they evaluate the intended site for hazards.

“This includes assessing the area for water surface conditions and potential wind shear and downdrafts; ensuring that both the approach and departure paths are free of obstructions; and considering options in the event of a go-around.”

The full report is here.

Map showing the aircraft track, with cabin and accident locations (Source: Google Earth, with TSB annotations)

Ethan MorneauEthan Morneau

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