Preliminary report: Caravan crashes in Lake Erie

 - March 28, 2007, 10:21 AM

CESSNA 208 CARAVAN, PELEE ISLAND, ONTARIO, CANADA, JAN. 17, 2004–The Canadian-registered Air Georgian Caravan (CFAGA), operating as air-taxi Flight 126, crashed shortly after departure at 9:39 p.m. The U.S. Coast Guard later located the wreckage nose down in the water one mile west of Pelee Island, a Canadian island in Lake Erie; 10 people on board were killed. The crash site was about 20 miles north of Sandusky, Ohio. Weather was reported as freezing rain, and two rescue helicopters dispatched from Canadian Forces Base Trenton could not reach the site because of heavy snow.

At press time, no details were available on the flight plan, weather briefing, last radio contact or last clearance, but the destination was known to be Windsor, Ontario, across the border from Detroit.

A Toronto newspaper quoted a U.S. Coast Guard lieutenant: “The pilot radioed a call for help shortly after taking off, but controllers then lost contact with the airplane.” The newspaper reported that the Ontario Provincial Police said an island resident heard the airplane laboring just before the crash.

“From what we understand there is a pretty extensive debris field,” said a sergeant from the Canadian search-and-rescue coordination center at Trenton.

A team of investigators from Ottawa was sent to the crash site, said a spokesman for the Transport Safety Board of Canada. The Mississauga, Ontario-based air service has flights between the island and Windsor up to three times daily in the winter months when the island is icebound and the ferry can’t be used.