The Canadian Press
Date: Friday May. 21, 2010 6:55 AM ET
L’ISLE-AUX-GRUES, Que. — Investigators paced amid debris Thursday, looking for clues in a small field where a small plane crashed, killing all four people on board.
Standing a few metres from the scattered debris, a Transportation Safety Board official said the Cessna 172 carrying three men and one woman had slammed into an embankment before disintegrating into flames.
“All we can say is that the impact occurred with considerable force,” said Marc Perreault. “But when it comes to determining the speed, it is still too early.”
A Quebec provincial police helicopter aided TSB investigators in their search for clues in the tragedy, which happened Wednesday afternoon.
Orange and yellow ribbons still surrounded the impact area and the ditch where the barely recognizable remains of the plane’s cabin lay.
The charred bodies of two of the dead were removed from the plane late Wednesday by forensic investigators and Denis Boulanger, who was the first to reach the trapped passengers after the crash.
Provincial police identified two of the dead on Thursday as Michel Gagnon, 59 years, and Raynald Turgeon, 49.
Perrault said the plane was piloted by a young woman who held a private pilot’s license and was training to become a professional pilot.
Boulanger was working on his tractor Thursday at the same spot where he was on Wednesday when he saw the plane coming toward him.
He didn’t hide his sadness at learning of the death of a man he tried to help and stayed with for an hour before help arrived.
“The saddest part about it is that this man, he seemed to want to keep living,” he said.
“I wanted to keep him alive., the poor man. It’s a very bad end of the day for him, his family and me and all those who worked to save him. It’s sad that he’s gone.”
Boulanger said he held the man during the intense hour and assured him they would meet again.
“I’m working in my field,” he said. “I have to keep my head. We have to keep on working. But I find it really sad for the man. For the other three too, but he was alive.”
Investigators were working Thursday to identify plane parts, which were scattered across the field after the impact. Perrault said investigators will also examine flight instrument recordings and tapes of radio conversations.
“What the experts are doing is documenting the scene to have a good idea of the plane’s direction and the first points of impact,” he said.
“We will then recover the instruments on the ground and check them for speed, rates of descent, and engine revolutions, if they are not too damaged.”
The tiny village in the middle of the St. Lawrence River was bustling for a second day in a row as townsfolk grappled with the tragedy.
Frederic Poulin, the mayor of the community of 160, said that news of the crash on Wednesday had raised fears about children on the island, who travel daily by air to Montmagny to go to school.
He said the accident happened while the island’s seven elementary school students were travelling so people were worried until they learned they were safe.
“Now we’re sad for the victims.”
Poulin said the last such accidental death on the island happened 20 years ago.