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Bad weather, inadequate equipment revealed in investigation into fatal B.C. plane crash

An investigation into a B.C. plane crash that killed two people in 2017 reveals the relatively inexperienced pilot flew through deteriorating weather conditions in mountainous terrain before he nosedived into a steep slope.

The report also finds that inadequate equipment hampered rescue efforts because it failed to send out an emergency beacon — the wreckage and the two victims weren’t discovered until nearly a year later.

The Transportation Safety Board released the results of its investigation on Wednesday. The small plane crashed in November 2017 and killed pilot Dominic Neron and passenger Ashley Bourgeault of Alberta.

“What we’ve seen in the past with less experienced pilots and bad weather is that these two often go together to unfortunately result in a loss of control,” said TSB  regional manager of air investigations Ewan Tasker.

According to the TSB’s report, the plane left Penticton, B.C., en route for Edmonton at 2:22 p.m. on a rainy November day, with about 1.5 hours of daylight left.

The report says Neron was qualified to pilot the Mooney M20D aircraft without using any instruments, a practice known as visual flight rules. The report adds Neron didn’t file a flight plan or obtain a weather briefing before he took off. 

Dominic Neron and Ashley Bourgeault were on a small plane that went missing in B.C. on Nov. 25, Neron’s family says. (Tammy Neron)

“Flying in deteriorating weather conditions is challenging; the associated risks need to be managed properly before and during flight, especially when flying over mountainous terrain,” the report said. 

According to TSB statistics, flights operating under visual flight rules in deteriorating conditions have a high fatality rate. 

The plane was following the Trans-Canada Highway on a path to Edmonton when it crashed, according to a TSB report. ( Google Earth, with TSB annotations)

No signal from transmitter

The report also says the plane’s emergency locator transmitter was damaged in the crash, keeping it from sending out a signal.

Local search teams were notified that the plane hadn’t arrived at its destination, according to the report, but crews didn’t know where the plane was and were initially hampered by poor weather conditions. 

This privately registered Mooney M20D aircraft was travelling between Penticton, B.C., and Edmonton with two people onboard when it crashed. (R. Friesen/Transportation Safety Board)

The search was called off on Dec. 5, 2017. In September of the following year, a helicopter headed for Kamloops discovered the wreckage near the Trans-Canada Highway and Rogers Pass. 

The TSB said it has recommended requirements for transmitters that would better withstand the impact of a crash, but its recommendations have yet to be implemented. 

“Potentially life-saving search-and-rescue services may be delayed, if an ELT antenna is damaged during an accident,” the report said.

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