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UPDATE: Former Alberta premier dead in plane crash near Kelowna

Police near the scene of a plane crash on Beaver Lake Road.
October 14, 2016 - 4:28 PM

KELOWNA - An aircraft carrying former Alberta premier Jim Prentice and three other people crashed into a heavily wooded area near Lake Country shortly after takeoff last night, killing everyone on board.

Prentice's family confirmed he was on board the small jet that was en route from Kelowna to the Springbank airport, outside Calgary, along with Ken Gellatly, the father-in-law of one of his daughters.

"To lose two family members at once is unbelievably painful," the family said in a statement.

Prentice, 60, also a former federal cabinet minister, quit politics in May 2015 after the Alberta NDP swept the Progressive Conservatives from power.

The family described Gellatly as "a very special man" and expressed the "heartbreak" caused by the news.

"In the time Jim has been with us, he was a friend to many. Jim was a loving and compassionate man who dedicated his life to his family and public service. He will be so greatly missed."

Premier Christy Clark says she was shocked to hear the news of Prentice's death.

"This is a terrible loss for our country. It's a rare privilege to meet people of Jim's character in any walk of life. He was a man of his word, would keep confidences, and his handshake was worth more than any written agreement," Clark says in a media release. "Simply by being himself, Jim Prentice elevated political discourse in this country with his dignity, kindness, and focus."

Transportation Safety Board investigators are on the way to the crash site, approximately four kilometres into a heavily wooded area north of Beaver Lake Road east of Lake Country.

Cpl. Dan Moskaluk says in a release a Citation jet with four people on board crashed at about 10:30 p.m., yesterday, Oct. 13.

FILE PHOTO - Alberta PC Party leader Jim Prentice speaks to party faithful in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, May 5, 2015. The former Alberta premier Prentice died Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016 in a plane crash outside of Kelowna, British Columbia.
FILE PHOTO - Alberta PC Party leader Jim Prentice speaks to party faithful in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, May 5, 2015. The former Alberta premier Prentice died Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016 in a plane crash outside of Kelowna, British Columbia.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Police were contacted when the private plane lost radar contact.

“Our police officers and police dog reached the crash scene shortly after midnight, but unfortunately they were not able to locate any survivors,” Moskaluk says. “There was catastrophic damage at the crash site.”

Central Okanagan Search and Rescue joined police and the dog team at the scene of the crash just after midnight to help search for any possible survivors and remained on scene throughout the night. 

Moskaluk says the plane was leaving Kelowna and headed to Calgary. Authorities are now in the process of confirming the identities of those onboard the aircraft, he says.

“Our priority is to first share information with the families of those individuals killed in this tragic crash,” Moskaluk says, adding once next of kin have been notified, information
about the identities of those on board may be released publicly.

The B.C. Coroners Service has confirmed it is investigating but declined to release any further information at this time.

Sam Samaddar, director of the Kelowna International Airport, said the plane left at 9:32 p.m. and the airport was notified that radar contact with the plane was lost at about 10:15 p.m. The plane, which can carry up to eight passengers, crashed about 10 kilometres northeast of the airport, he said.

It appears the plane crashed only a few minutes into its flight.

Data on the website Flight Aware shows the plane was registered to Norject Inc. and took off at 9:32 p.m. Radar contact was made at 9:34 p.m. with the plane travelling north at 296 km/h at 4,000 feet above sea level.

The next contact was made at 9:35 p.m. The plane was travelling a little slower at 278 km/h and had climbed to 7,000 feet, still travelling north.

The final contact was made at 9:36 p.m. and was near where the plane found. The plane had slowed down to 222 km/h and dropped 2,200 feet to 4,800 feet above sea level. The area the plane crashed in was around 4,400 feet above sea level, according to the website Veloroute.

The plane did not show up again on radar, according to Flight Aware.

— With files from The Canadian Press

— This story was updated at 10:33 a.m. to include new details from Cpl. Dan Moskaluk. 

— This story was updated at 11:24 a.m. to include a statement from Premier Christy Clark.

— This story was updated at 11:40 a.m. to include information from Central Okanagan Search and Rescue and the Kelowna Airport.

— This story was updated at 12:52 p.m. to include information from Prentice's family.

— This story was updated at 4:22 p.m. to include the flight's timeline.


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