July 11, 2014 1:06 pm
Updated: July 11, 2014 3:50 pm

Manitoba crop-spraying plane hit by gunfire, man charged

Crop spraying aircraft showing exit hole from bullet in the lower right of the picture obtained by Global News on Friday, July 11, 2014

Lauren McNabb/Global News

WINNIPEG – It’s a high-risk job, but even those who pilot crop sprayers don’t expect to be shot at when they take to the skies.

That’s exactly what happened to one pilot when he flew over a farm near Fortier, about 30 kilometres west of Winnipeg in the rural municipality of Portage la Prairie, on Wednesday.

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“He heard a loud noise and at first he thought he had struck a wire,” said Cory Trumbla, a retailer for Terraco. “When he landed at the airport, he called me and said ‘I’ve been shot.’ ”

Pictures show the bullet went right through the bottom of the plane and out the other side. The bullet hole is about four feet behind the pilot’s position.

“It’s unreal. I can’t believe someone had the audacity to do that,” said Trumbla.

Terraco hired a  Minnedosa-based company, Ken Kane Aerial Spray, to apply product to a client’s field on July 9.

The shot was allegedly fired by a neighbour.

RCMP have arrested Luc Arnal, 51, of the RM of Portage la Prairie. He has been charged with illegally discharging a firearm, mischief over $5,000, pointing a firearm, unauthorized possession of a firearm and endangering an aircraft.

Police said their investigation included a search warrant at a home and outbuildings in the RM where officers seized a firearm and some ammunition.

“This is a first for us,” aircraft owner Ken Kane said. It’s not clear what prompted someone to open fire on the aircraft.

Crop dusters fly very low to the ground over agricultural fields, spraying pesticides and other products on crops.

In this case, a canola field was being sprayed with a fungicide used at this time of year on many plants, which are at risk of disease due to excessive moisture, Trumbla said.

A file image shows a crop-dusting aircraft.



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