UPDATE: Pilot trapped inside plane wreckage at Merritt airport for seven hours | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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UPDATE: Pilot trapped inside plane wreckage at Merritt airport for seven hours

Image Credit: B.C. Ambulance via Flickr
February 10, 2020 - 11:17 AM

A missing person report led police to the discovery of a plane wreck on the Merritt Airport runway early this morning.

On Feb. 10 at 12:14, RCMP received a report of a missing man. After an initial investigation, an RCMP officer attended the Merritt Airport where he found the wreckage of a small white and green plane, according to a media release. The 60-year-old pilot had been trapped in the wreckage since crashing the plane late Sunday afternoon.

Scott Hildebrand, chief administrative officer for the City of Merritt, says no one was at the airport at the time of the crash. He believes the pilot had been trapped inside the wreckage since about 5 p.m. on Feb. 9.

“Apparently no one found him until 12:30 a.m., so seven hours later. So he crashed and was in the plane but was unable to call for help,” Hildebrand says. “The airport is not manned on a 24/7 basis. We were up there Saturday and Sunday doing maintenance, but we weren’t there at the time of the incident.”

After being reported missing on Feb. 10 at 12:14 a.m., the pilot was found by a frontline RCMP officer, who then called the Merritt Fire Department and B.C. Emergency Health Services for assistance, RCMP say.

It is not yet clear how badly the pilot was hurt or what his current condition is, although RCMP say he was brought to hospital in serious condition.

“I believe he was taken to the Kamloops hospital but I believe it was by ambulance not air ambulance because we don't have the ability,” Hildebrand says. “We don’t have the lighting here at our airport… the helicopter, from my understanding, was unable to come in here, they were unable to land.”

Hildebrand says the man was a newcomer to Merritt, and his plane had only just arrived a day before the crash. Hildebrand believes it was a recreational flight, but isn’t aware of his flight plan.

“I do know that his plane came on Saturday by trailer because he is a new resident to Merritt. I believe he came from out of province, so his plane was coming by road,” Hildebrand says. "He did have access to the airport to bring his plane in, but from there I don’t know if there was a flight plan, I don’t know what his intentions were once he arrived on site.”

It is not yet known where the man moved from, and his identity will not be released out of respect for his privacy.

Although the man had been trapped for around seven hours, it took RCMP only half an hour to find him once he was reported missing, according to Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey, media relations officer for the RCMP Southeast District.

“The officer who responded to the airport, the investigation led him to that location and I would say he discovered the wreckage within half an hour of that initial report,” O’Donaghey says.

Merritt RCMP reported the incident to Transport Canada and both are investigating.

O’Donaghey asks anyone in the Merritt area who may have seen something suspicious or of interest to call the Merritt RCMP detachment at 250-378-4262.

According to a media release from the City of Merritt, the airport saw 0.6 centimetres of snow measured at 3 p.m. on Friday, and measured 0.4 centimetres on Saturday. The airport runway was last plowed on Saturday from 9:49 a.m. to 10:40 a.m. It was not stated if the conditions were responsible for the crash.

Member of the City of Merritt public works department and local firefighters cleaned up the wreckage.

Since it is a non-towered airport, all flight planning is coordinated through NAV Canada Flight Information Centre in Kamloops. The Kamloops-based centre has now been notified that the airport is reopened.

— This story was updated at 11:17 a.m. Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, with new information from the City of Merritt and RCMP.

— This story was updated at 3:55 p.m. Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, with new information from the City of Merritt.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Jenna Wheeler or call (250) 819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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