July 08, 2015 - 6:30 PM
OSOYOOS - A 46-year-old Surrey man lies in critical condition in a Vancouver hospital a day after crashing his single engine Beechcraft plane on Highway 97 just north of Osoyoos.
The pilot has been identified as Todd Lewendon of Surrey, a husband and father with three daughters. He is a veteran pilot with nearly 20 years’ experience and yesterday was his birthday, according to Global News.
An Osoyoos police report indicates Lewendon was on his way from Oliver to Boundary yesterday, July 7, when the accident occurred.
Surinder Sandhu of Sandhu Greenhouses and Nursery says she and husband Harjeewau were working near their packing house when they saw the plane fly over.
“We thought it was going to land on us, it was so low,” she says, noting the plane was headed in a southeasterly direction, toward the highway in front of Sandhu Greenhouses.
Feeling something was wrong, Harjeewau ran out to the highway, where, Surinder recounts, the plane touched down.
“There was no traffic heading southbound, but a northbound semi-trailer hit the wing. The plane spun around and struck a utility pole, and right after that a we saw smoke,” Surinder says.
It appeared the truck tried to avoid clipping the plane, but the wingspan was too wide. The plane came to rest approximately 250 metres south of Sandhu Greenhouses. By the time Harjeewau got to the scene, the pilot had escaped the flaming wreckage, and bystanders were calling 9-1-1.
Kashmir Bains resides in a basement suite of a residence almost directly behind the utility pole. She was in her suite when she heard a noise that sounded like someone dropping something extremely heavy in the upstairs apartment.
She went outside to find approximately a dozen people standing on the highway, with flames from the downed plane licking up the utility pole in front of her residence spewing thick, black smoke into the air.
“The pilot was out of the plane by then. My neighbour told me the skin on his arms was just hanging,” Bains says.
She later saw the pilot on a stretcher, being treated by ambulance personnel.
Bains says the wreckage was hauled away later in the evening, but as they were loading it onto a truck, a fire restarted.
“There was a lot of fuel left over. It must have restarted. The fire department had to come back,” she says, adding she was concerned about the safety of her house, just a few metres away from the wreckage.
Bains says officials were on scene until 3 a.m. today, July 8, repairing the utility pole and restringing hydro and cable services.
She believes the pilot must have developed a sudden emergency, because the Oliver airstrip is only a five minute walk overland from her house.
Power lines criss cross Highway 97 on the flat, straight stretch in front of Bains' residence, but the right of way is narrow, with hedges, utility lines on both sides and signage lining the edge of the right of way.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015