The Cold Lake Air Show was cancelled in northeast Alberta Sunday afternoon after a plane crashed during a performance and killed the pilot, according to an official with CFB Cold Lake.
Capt. Matthew Strong, 4 Wing at CFB Cold Lake’s public affairs officer, told Global News a T-28 Trojan crashed around 2 p.m. He said the pilot, Bruce Evans, did not survive.
Trish Hartman, an Edmonton woman watching the show, told Global News Evans was announced as being from Calgary.
People attending the air show were being escorted away from the grounds.
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada told Global News it was sending a team of investigators to CFB Cold Lake and that they were expected to arrive Sunday evening.
The propeller-driven aircraft was used to train pilots in the 1950s and 1960s.
“It looked like he had just passed where we were and he had just kind of done a trick and then it almost looked like he was going to turn around and go back up to fly past,” Jody Looy, who witnessed the crash, said. “Then he kind of went up and he just nosedived straight down.
“There was no fireball or anything like that. It was just a “poof’ and you kind of saw a cloud of white smoke or whatever it was and that was it.”
“It was crazy,” Looy added.
“Most people kind of just froze – me included – nobody really knew what happened,” Cold Lake Sun editor Peter Lozinski said. “I was very in the moment. It was after-the-fact that I was like, ‘I saw someone die today.’ It was a tough night for me.”
Looy said the air show announcer said “nobody panic” and asked parents to turn their kids away from the scene as emergency personnel raced to the crash site.
“I think he knew something was wrong,” Mike Hartman, a spectator who drove in from Edmonton to see the show, said. “He made the choice to put it away from the crowd.”
“I know a little bit about aircraft,” he added. “He seemed a little low. He made a right hand turn, it looked like he was trying to recover and all of a sudden, he went straight into the ground.”
In a statement issued late Sunday afternoon, CFB Cold Lake said emergency services discovered Evans was dead as soon as the scene was secured.
“4 Wing and CFB Cold Lake and the Cold Lake Air Show express our condolences to the family, friends and loved ones of Mr. Evans,” the statement said.
“We are deeply saddened by this incident and are providing our full support to Mr. Evans’ team here in Cold Lake,” Col. Eric Kenny, commander at 4 Wing and CFB Cold Lake, said in a statement. “We express our deepest sympathies to the family, friends and loved ones of Mr. Evans.”
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan tweeted his condolences to the pilot’s loved ones on Sunday evening.
“This is a private individual that had some planes and wanted to entertain the public and that’s exactly what he was doing,” Cold Lake Mayor Craig Copeland said. “And he did die but I’m sure he died doing what he loved.”
According to the air show’s website, Evans, who is also known by the name “Frac,” was a geologist who works around the world in the field of resources exploration. His bio says he grew up in an Air Force family and his father spent time as an aircraft maintenance engineer as well as a radar specialist.
Evans attended Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont. and according to his bio, the family’s Cessna 172 – a small aircraft – was used to travel to and from university.
The air show’s website says Evans bought a T-28B Trojan in 2007 and that the plane he bought was built in 1955.
Evans had accumulated over 4,100 hours of flight time experience during his time as a pilot.
“The T-28 is an extraordinary aircraft,” the air show’s website says. “She is surprisingly large at a gross takeoff weight of just under 9000 pounds, delivers jet-like performance with the help of her 1425 horsepower Wright Cyclone R-1820 radial engine, and is very maneuverable.”
Evans was scheduled to perform at another air show in Wetaskiwin, Alta. this week.
The Wetaskiwin Air Show put out a release Sunday evening in which organizers expressed their condolences to Evans’ family and friends and said the air show would still take place.
-with files from Sarah Kraus and The Canadian Press.
Watch below: The Cold Lake Air Show was cancelled Sunday after a fatal plane crash during a pilot’s performance. Quinn Ohler has the details.