One of three victims killed when a small plane crashed near Chilliwack Municipal Airport Friday has been identified as 25-year-old Abhay Gadru from Mumbai, India.
Gadru had moved to Canada three years ago to complete pilot training, according to his cousin Sdradha Trisal. He was expected to graduate from a program in November.
“He was such a pure soul,” said Trisal, who fondly recalled her cousin’s lighthearted sense of humour and positive attitude. “I can’t believe he’s gone and I’m just left with memories now.”
The twin-engined light aircraft Gadru was aboard crashed into bushes beside the Chilliwack Motor Inn close to the city’s airport.
Two other people who died in the accident, including the aircraft’s pilot, have not yet been identified.
Meanwhile, Gadru’s sibling, Chirag, who also lives in B.C., is struggling to have his older brother’s remains transported home to their parents in India.
“The family is going through a lot right now,” said his friend Harshvardhan Gaur. “Chirag is in Langley trying to fill out all of the necessary paperwork with the coroner, but processing has been difficult because it’s a long weekend.”
The cause of the accident is unknown. Investigators from the Transportation Safety Board were dispatched Saturday to examine the wreckage, which remains cordoned off.
Haylie Morris was on a forklift Friday afternoon when the accident occurred at about 2:15 p.m.
Morris said she knew right away that the plane was too low and began yelling for someone to call 911 because she didn’t have her cellphone with her.
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“I jumped off the forklift and started running and I saw it go into the forest across the street, crash through the trees, and then the trees blocked me from seeing it hit the hotel,” said Morris. “But when I ran over, I saw that it had hit the side of the hotel, or at least just in front of it.”
Morris said she was shaken. “I don’t think I’ve ran that fast or had my heart beating that fast in a while.”
First responders’ rescue efforts were a challenge because massive blackberry bushes were blocking their access to the plane, according to Sgt. Krista Vrolyk with Chilliwack RCMP.
“They had to use mattresses and boxsprings to push down the brambles to get to the plane,” Vrolyk said.
The officer confirmed that no one outside of those who were in the plane was injured and the hotel does not appear to have incurred any damage from the crash.
Lynn Gordon, whose family has owned the hotel for 50 years, said the plane crashed nose first “probably 10 to 15 feet” behind the building.
“It’s just a miracle it didn’t hit the building,” Gordon said.
Gordon said she wasn’t at the motel at the time of the crash but has spoken to the employees who were.
“They never heard a thing,” she said. “There was a little bit of noise. It’s at the back (of the motel) so they wouldn’t have seen anything. No fire, which is weird.”
The registration number on the plane’s tail indicates the aircraft, which appeared badly damaged, is a Piper Seneca owned by SkyQuest Aviation, a flight school based in Langley. It was built in 1972.
An employee who works as an administrator at SkyQuest Aviation, but didn’t want to give her name, said: “We’re looking into it but we’re not issuing any statements. There is nothing we can say at this time.”
— With files from The Canadian Press
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