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Safety board confirms in flight breakup caused Alta plane crash that killed five

March 31, 2008, Edmonton - The family of an Alberta engineering company president grieved privately Saturday over his death in a plane crash investigators say was caused when the single-engine aircraft fell apart in mid-air.


March 31, 2008
By Sylvia Strojek

March 31, 2008, Edmonton – The family of an Alberta engineering company president
grieved privately Saturday over his death in a plane crash investigators say was caused when the single-engine aircraft fell apart in mid-air.

But it's still unclear what caused the breakup. That will be for
the Transportation Safety Board to determine once the wreckage is
retrieved, said board spokesman John Cottreau.

"There are some pieces strewn over a three-kilometre-long debris
field and they're looking for those pieces,'' Cottreau said from
Ottawa.

"They're going to pull together all the pieces that they can
recover (and) they're going to bring them to our office in Edmonton,
where they're going to do a more detailed examination to focus on
what might have initiated the event that led to the in-flight
breakup.''

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Cottreau would not speculate on whether the breakup was caused by
something that happened on the flight or whether there were already
problems with the PA-46 Piper Malibu.

But he did say if any safety deficiency is found during what
could be a time-consuming investigation, the safety board will act
immediately to correct it.

"We won't wait for the completion of the report,'' he said.

The crash in a wooded area near Wainwright, Alta., killed Reagan
Williams, president of A.D. Williams Engineering, two senior company
employees and two contractors.

It is the second air tragedy for the Williams family in five
months. Williams's father, Allen, who founded the company, died in a
crash near Golden, B.C., in October, although his three-year-old
granddaughter miraculously survived.

Rescuers found her hanging upside down from a car seat that had
been belted into the aircraft by her grandfather. She was all right,
although concerned about her stuffed toy.

The company's chief financial officer, Steve Sutton, also died in
that crash.

Reagan Williams, 41, was the uncle of the little girl and had one
child of his own. CBC Newsworld reported Saturday that his widow is
expecting another baby.

The Williams family was finding a second death in such a short
time “exceptionally difficult,'' said company spokeswoman Sue
O'Connor.

"The family is not prepared to speak at this time,'' she said.

O'Connor added that company vice-president Naseem Bashir was to
meet with employees Saturday to plan for the future.

The salvage operation in an area dissected by the Battle River
was expected to take another few days, said Cottreau.

"The challenge that they have is it is quite hilly and rolling.
It's quite a hike. The terrain, from what I understand, is quite
rough.''

Also killed in Friday's crash were Rhonda Quirke, the company's
director of business integration and strategy, and Phil Allard, who
took over after Sutton's death as chief financial officer.

Trevor John Korol, 36, and Shaun Michael Stewart, 35, both of
Edmonton, were also on the plane and did not survive. It is
believed they were accompanying Williams and his employees on a
business trip to Winnipeg.

Williams held commercial and private pilot licences and
regularly flew the firm's aircraft. Friends say both he and his
father loved aviation and adventure and would often fly to remote
locations in Alberta and the Northwest Territories to do business.

Allen Williams founded his company in 1978 and made a name for
himself by reconstructing buildings that had been quickly thrown
together during the boom of the 1970s.

The company is currently involved in the Diavik diamond mine
expansion in the N.W.T.

THE CANADIAN PRESS