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Survivors of Vancouver crash say pilot's efforts were heroic

October 31, 2011, 05:11 pm

The survivors of a recent plane crash in Vancouver, British Columbia, are crediting pilots for their poise, which likely saved the lives of many passengers, according to the Vancouver Sun.

The pilot, Luc Fortin, flying a business flight for Northern Thunderbird air, first reported trouble shortly after takeoff on the business flight from Vancouver to Kelowna. According to passengers, an oil light went on in the Beechcraft King Air 100, and Fortin informed the passengers that he would be forced to make a landing.

While some passengers grumbled at the inconvenience, passenger Carolyn Cross noted that Fortin's hands were shaking.

"I looked at his hands and they were shaking, trembling, and at that moment I knew we were going to die," Cross told the source.

The pilot climbed in an attempt to gain enough altitude to make it back to the airport, but the effort came up about 900 meters short, according to the source. Witnesses said that just short of the runway, the airplane banked sharply to the right in an apparent attempt to make a landing on Russ Baker Way, a street near the airport.

The airplane landed hard on the road, striking a lamppost and a car, and burst into flames. According to the source, witnesses were able to help most of the passengers to safety, but Fortin, along with his copilot, 26-year old Matt Robic and one other passenger, remained trapped by the flames until fire crews arrived. Both Fortin and Robic sustained severe burns, and Fortin succumbed to his injuries in the hours following the crash.

As a general aviation pilot, training and an understanding of protocol is key to successful air travel. Survivors say that Fortin and Robic's heroics saved many lives, and credit Fortin's experience - he had logged over 14,000 flight hours in his career, according to the source - as a factor in their survival.

Aviation is by nature a dangerous occupation. Many pilots, whether they fly independently, commercially or for an airline, must employ some form of pilot insurance to cover the potential for injury or death resulting from an aviation accident. In many cases, standard insurance policies will not cover these types of accidents.

As a pilot, it's important to keep abreast of any changes in common practice while also maintaining safety protocols. Often times, pilot groups or organizations can offer advice to aviators on a number of topics, ranging from aircraft ownership and maintenance to pilot estate planning and good rates on term life insurance for pilots

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