'It was a horror show in there': Witnesses describe scene of deadly B.C. plane crash
VICTORIA -- As investigators prepare to comb through the wreckage of the deadly plane crash on Gabriola Island Tuesday, new witness accounts are offering insight into the doomed flight's final moments.
Dave Holme lives five houses down from the impact site on the northern tip of Gabriola Island. He tells CTV News Vancouver Island it's a miracle the twin-engine craft didn't strike one of two homes it came down between.
"What I saw was the plane spiralling towards the ground, completely out of control, and then it veered off and I saw it nosedive directly into the ground," Holme said Wednesday.
"I ran into the house and told my wife there was a plane crash and then phoned 911," he said. "I'd probably say within a minute I was at the crash site. I ran into the bushes, still in my slippers, just looking for any signs of life. It was a horror show in there. Absolute horror. Everything was on fire."
Investigators with the Transportation Safety Board are expected to arrive on Gabriola Island before 1 p.m. Wednesday. On Tuesday night, investigators confirmed they are dealing with multiple fatalities at the site, though a firm casualty count is not yet available.
Arriving at the scene in the moments after impact, Holme said only the plane's tail appeared intact.
"I just saw the tail end of a plane with the fins sticking straight out of the ground. There was bits of engine splattered all over the place. The main fuselage was completely engulfed in flames and there was little explosions happening," he said.
"There was a huge, huge fire area and that's when I realized I was standing in it."
Holme said it was the sound of an aircraft in trouble that first caught his attention.
"We heard the motors of the plane, they were not running properly. It almost sounded like the motors were cycling," he said. "Something did not sound right. The plane just looked like it was completely out of control. It was completely spiralling toward the ground."
Holme and other residents of the small Gulf Island said weather conditions were foggy just before 6:30 p.m., the time investigators and police say the first emergency calls started coming in.
"You could see the lights in either the clouds or the fog – or maybe both," Holme said.
Residents tell CTV News the force of the plane's impact shook their homes and rattled windows across the island.
Bette Lou Hagen tells CTV News she was sitting in her home reading when she heard the wail of an engine.
"I heard the roaring of an engine which was not a car engine. It sounded like it was coming straight for our house. It roared and then I heard a loud, loud crash and then I heard an explosion," Hagen said.
"I had no idead what it was. I was scared stiff," she said.
Looking out into her backyard, she estimates the explosion was 50 metres from her property, in what she describes as a little park area right next to a neighbour's home.
"It felt terrifying. The explosion was so big and there was fire in the trees."
The Transportation Safety Board is expected to report more details from the crash site Wednesday afternoon.
RCMP spokesman Cpl. Chris Manseau said the area where the plane went down is primarily a residential neighbourhood but police were not aware of any injuries on the ground.
Gabriola Island, which has a population of about 4,000, is a 20-minute ferry ride east of Nanaimo.