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6 dead after small plane crashes in Rockies west of Calgary

Six people are dead after a small plane crashed Friday night in the mountains west of Calgary. 

RCMP said five passengers and one pilot were onboard the aircraft, which left Springbank Airport near Calgary around 9 p.m. MT en route to Salmon Arm, B.C., for a church function. 

RCMP Staff Sgt. Ryan Singleton said that relatives lost contact with passengers on the plane around 9:30 p.m. Hours later, the plane was reported overdue, prompting a Winnipeg-based Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) squadron to conduct a search. 

The RCAF crew traced the missing plane’s emergency locator to Mount Bogart in Kananaskis Country, a mountainous area roughly 100 kilometres west of Calgary. The crash site was just a few kilometres from Kananaskis Village. 

RCMP officials on the scene of a recovery operation on July 29, 2023, following a plane crash in Kananaskis Country.
RCMP vehicles parked near the Heart Creek Day Use Area, which was closed to the public Saturday as emergency crews used it as a base of operations. (Mark Prystajecky)

With help from Alberta Parks Mountain Rescue, the squadron searched the crash site for survivors, but none were found.  All six people in the plane died, Singleton said.

The identities of the victims were not released. 

“On behalf of the Alberta RCMP, I would like to extend my deepest condolences to the families of those onboard the aircraft,” Singleton told reporters at a news conference. 

Kananaskis Emergency Service, Alberta Health Service and other agencies responded to the crash, where crews navigated difficult terrain to recover the bodies. The Heart Creek Day Use Area was closed to the public, as crews used it as a staging area. 

Mike Koppang, a mountain rescue specialist with Kananaskis Country, said crews were on the scene for most of Saturday morning and the early hours of the afternoon. 

“Unfortunately, it wasn’t the outcome we would have liked to see,” he said. 

A small plane flies, with a motion blur on the trees in the background.
A Piper aircraft lands at an airfield in Biggleswade, U.K., on May 6, 2018. A similar Piper aircraft crashed in Kananaskis Country. (Shutterstock / Fotogenix)

Koppang said that weather conditions Friday night in the area were cloudy, with low-lying clouds in the Kananaskis region.

“We’re still trying to figure out exactly what we saw for weather last night,” Koppang said. 

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is investigating the crash, which they say involved a Piper PA32 aircraft.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation. 

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