Wreckage of downed plane removed from Vancouver Island beach
ROYSTON, B.C. -- Two days after crash-landing into the ocean, a small aircraft that was leaking fuel onto a Vancouver Island beach has been removed.
The plane crashed Saturday afternoon shortly after leaving the Courtenay airpark. The wreckage was removed by a helicopter on Monday.
Witnesses say the plane was flying extremely low along the shoreline and skipped on the water a few times before flipping over.
Rick Simmonds witnessed the crash on Saturday and has been monitoring activity around the aircraft ever since.
"A storm last night came in and has moved the plane a good 100 feet off the shore to where it now sits on the beach" Simmonds said Monday.
Simmonds has been collecting buckets of fuel leaking out of the aircraft's two fuel tanks.
"Nobody seems to know who's going to do anything about it,” he said. “The owners of the plane have not come back to any of us about what's on the beach.
"As homeowners, we've called quite a few of the departments to find out what to do and everyone is saying, ‘Well, it is up to the owners of the plane to take care of it,"’ he added.
The 1968 Piper PA-28-140 typically operates out of an airfield in Maple Ridge and is registered to a New Westminster man.
Gord Rose is a pilot who flies out of the Courtenay airpark and was airborne when the plane went down.
He said he heard the Comox air-control tower clear the radio frequency when the incident began and knew immediately something had gone wrong in the area.
Rose was checking out the wreckage on Monday, trying to piece together what happened.
"When you run out of power for whatever reason, all you can do is glide to the best spot possible and it looks like the pilot did a good job of picking this spot," Rose said.
That's a sentiment echoed by Janice McLaughlin, a family physician who lives near the crash site. She was part of the Gartley Point community of more than 40 people who tried to assist the pilot and his passenger in the moments after the crash.
"I heard the noise and I just saw the wake and the plane just as it flipped at the end and then went running out of the door with my slippers on," she said.
"We've got incredible neighbours and we have a lot of resources,” McLaughlin added. “The first guy who was on scene is my neighbour who's a chiropractor. Myself, I'm a physician, and we had the guy with a dinghy who's former coast guard,” McLaughlin said.
Employees of a Campbell River-based aviation company were also on the scene Monday surveying the wreckage and trying to formulate a plan on behalf of the insurance company to safely remove the aircraft from the beach.