Oil Light Started Vancouver Crash Sequence

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The pilot of a Northern Thunderbird Air King Air 100 that crashed in Vancouver last week told passengers they were turning back to the airport because of a minor oil leak in one engine. He notified the tower and said an emergency stand-by from the airport fire department wasn't necessary. Ten minutes later, while the aircraft was on a stable approach, it suddenly veered left and crashed on a perimeter road just outside the fence, injuring all seven passengers and two crew as well as two occupants of a car that was hit by wreckage. Pilot Luc Fortin, 44, later died from burns. "That's our challenge: to determine why what appeared to be a benign indicator problem turned into such a tragic event," Transportation Safety Board investigator Bill Yearwood told reporters. A passenger onboard said the pilots' body language belied their otherwise calm demeanor.

Interviewed in her hospital bed, where she was recovering from back and leg injuries, Carolyn Cross said she could see Fortin trembling at the controls, and as the aircraft neared the airport Fortin and his right-seat pilot, 26-year-old Matt Robic, "shot each other a look" before the plane turned and hit the road. Cross and the other six passengers were on their way to Kelowna, B.C., for an executive forum in nearby Vernon. Passersby are credited with saving many of the people onboard the twin. They used emergency fire extinguishers to subdue the fuel-fed fire enough to get inside the aircraft and pull six occupants out. The two pilots and a passenger were trapped for more than 15 minutes in the burning plane as firefighters emptied three truckloads of foam on it. The cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder are being examined.