‘A loud sonic boom’: Gabriola Island residents recount fatal plane crash

Area where the plane went down is primarily a residential neighbourhood, RCMP say

Residents look on as an RCMP vehicle blocks a road near the the scene of a small plane crash on Gabriola Island, B.C., Wednesday, Dec.11, 2019. The BC Coroners Service and police have confirmed multiple fatalities in a plane crash off the east coast of Vancouver Island.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Three investigators from the Transportation Safety Board are expected to arrive early this afternoon at the scene of a plane crash which officials say took several lives off the east coast of Vancouver Island.

READ MORE: No survivors in Gabriola Island plane crash

The BC Coroners Service and the RCMP confirm there were multiple fatalities when the small plane went down around 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday on the northwest corner of Gabriola Island.

Few details were immediately available about the size or type of the plane or the number of passengers.

Coroners Service spokesman Andy Watson said in a statement that the department was in the preliminary stages of finding out who died and under what circumstances.

RCMP spokesman Cpl. Chris Manseau says the area where the plane went down is primarily a residential neighbourhood.

He says there is no indication that people were forced from their homes because of the crash.

“Nobody that was on the ground that we’re aware of was injured,” he said Wednesday.

Gabriola Island is about a 15-kilometre ferry ride east of Nanaimo. Manseau said he understands that BC Ferries was contacted soon after the crash and a scheduled supper-hour trip to the island was held back to allow more emergency service personnel to board and get to the crash site.

“In very short order we had a full crew of paramedics and firefighters from Nanaimo who actually headed to Gabriola Island.”

The site was cordoned off prior to Transport Safety Board investigators moving in.

“I would assume an airplane crash is going to have a pretty significant area for a debris field,” Manseau said.

Bette Lou Hagen, who lives in the area, said she was reading a novel when she heard “like a loud sonic boom or something.”

“I heard a loud engine — it didn’t sound like a car engine — but it was really shaking my house and then I heard a loud crash. Then — I don’t how much later it was — I heard an explosion,” she said.

She went outside but could not see much because the area has a lot of trees, and then called the police.

The plane crashed about 50 metres from her backyard, she said.

“It was pretty awful. I’m still shaking.”

The Canadian Press

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