By The Canadian Press
KINGSTON, Ont. — Three children were among the seven people killed when a U.S.-registered plane crashed in eastern Ontario, the Transportation Safety Board said Thursday as it indicated seating configurations on board the aircraft would figure into its ongoing investigation of the tragedy.
Ken Webster, the TSB investigator heading up the probe, offered few details about the people on board the aircraft that crashed near Kingston, Ont., late Wednesday afternoon. But a spokesman for the agency said the Ontario Coroner’s office had confirmed that four adults and three children were on board at the time.
Webster said the aircraft was registered in the United States and had taken off from the Toronto area shortly before the crash, but did not provide details about aircraft ownership or the identities of the victims.
He said, however, that one preliminary finding has given investigators an avenue to explore.
“There were seven people on board this aircraft,” Webster said at a news conference. “This type of aircraft has a provision for seven seats in some configurations, however we found six seats at the accident site…. We do look closely at this kind of information.”
Webster said the Board had also heard reports of deteriorating weather conditions in the area at around 5 p.m. when the plane crashed into a wooded area. He said those conditions would also be a part of the investigation.
A team of four TSB investigators would comb the wreckage of the Piper PA-32, which appears to have hit the ground at a “very steep” angle, he said.
Webster said early indications are that the plane was making plans to land in Kingston but was ultimately bound for Quebec City.
A statement on the board’s website said that prior to the crash, “There were communications between the pilot and Kingston Flight Service Station.”
Const. Ash Gutheinz of the Kingston police said the area was under a wind advisory at the time, and while the conditions may not have been as bad as predicted, it was certainly “blustery.”
A spokesman for Canadian Forces Base Trenton, meanwhile, said a military helicopter dealt with high winds while it searched for the crash site.
Maj. Trevor Reid said the helicopter crew found the wreckage thanks to an emergency beacon on board the plane.
Residents in the area also noted there was heavy rain and strong winds around the time of the crash.
“I was amazed that anybody was even flying last night because there was lots of notice that this windstorm was coming,” said Rob Gibson, who lives near the site where the plane went down.
Gibson said in an interview Thursday morning he could hear a helicopter searching for the downed aircraft the previous night, but didn’t register any sounds from the crash itself.