Langley pilot crash-lands near Fraser River

A Langley man recovering in Royal Columbian Hospital has much to be grateful for this holiday season, most of all he’s lucky to be alive.

The 23-year-old pilot crashed his plane Tuesday afternoon – just before 3 p.m. – at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport.

It’s still unclear why, but he reportedly lost power to his Cessna and was forced to make an emergency landing.

Relying only on the air under the wings, the lone occupant of the plane approached Pitt Meadows airport from the south, explained assistant Pitt Meadows fire chief Rob Chatton.

Fortunately, the pilot managed to keepthe plane airborne long enough to bring it in for a landing on the southern tip of the airport, Chatton said.

He and other emergency responders were amazed at how the pilot managed to manoeuvre the powerless aircraft down onto the taxi runway, while avoiding three nearby hangars, airport workers in the area, and most importantly the Fraser River.

“It’s just impressive where he put this plane… because there wasn’t many options,” Chatton said, noting the plane could have easily fell short of the airport grounds and landed in the water – only 50 or so feet away. 

“The only other option was the Fraser River, which means he wouldn’t have fared well,” Chatton said.

This was not the standard runway the pilot landed on, he explained. It was a narrow taxi route located between several buildings near the float plane dock.

“That in itself was quite amazing,” he added.

The plane did come in for what Chatton described as a hard landing. While the plane suffered “significant damage” – including a broken tail, half the front end and landing gear ripped off, and extensive damage to one of the wings – so too did the pilot.

He was airlifted out to hospital with what Mounties are describing as non-life threatening injuries.

It’s believed he suffered numerous broken bones – possibly his leg and jaw. As well, he was being treated for multiple facial lacerations. 

“He’s pretty luck, that’s for sure,” said Chatton.

To add to the good news in a bad news story, the fire official credits bystanders with acting fast to move the conscious but badly injured pilot to safety as an estimated 20 gallons of airplane fuel spilled out onto the ground.

Realizing there was a good chance the fuel could ignite, some of the workers nearby dragged the pilot about 50-feet away – to safety – and began administering first aid, while others grabbed fire extinguishers and stood watch to prevent a fire from erupting.

“They recognized there was a serious hazard and got the pilot to safety, then had fire extinguishers at the read in case the fuel leak flashed… They did a fantastic job,” Chatton said.

Once the pilot was stabilized and sent by helicopter to hospital, fire crews then focused their attention on the crash site, laying a thick blanket of foam down to subdue the fumes from the fuel that was puddling on the tarmac.

The cause of the crash will be investigated by the Transportation Safety Board.

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