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Soaring club temporarily closes after 2 killed in glider crash near Black Diamond, Alberta

WATCH (July 26, 2019): Global1 helicopter video shows RCMP at the scene of a fatal crash involving a glider plane and a tow plane on Friday, July 26 near Black Diamond, Alta.

Two people were killed in a crash between a glider plane and a tow aircraft in southern Alberta on Friday afternoon.

EMS said emergency crews were called to a gliding club near Black Diamond at 4:05 p.m.

Two people were pronounced dead at the scene.

Emergency crews at the scene of a deadly glider crash in southern Alberta on Friday, July 26, 2019.
Emergency crews at the scene of a deadly glider crash in southern Alberta on Friday, July 26, 2019. Michael King/ Global News

READ MORE: 4 dead after float plane crashes on small island north of Vancouver Island

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A third person in the tow plane was treated at the scene but not taken to hospital.

The only gliding club listed in the Black Diamond area is the Cu Nim Gliding Club located at the Cu Nim Airport.

RCMP told Global News that officers were on scene and would be holding the crash site until Transportation Safety Board investigators could arrive. They are expected to arrive on Saturday.

Two people were killed in a glider crash near Black Diamond, Alta., on July 26.
Two people were killed in a glider crash near Black Diamond, Alta., on July 26. Google Maps

Cpl. Laurel Scott said RCMP officers were taking statements and speaking to witnesses. She said the medical examiner would also be involved in the investigation.

Footage from the Global1 helicopter showed an RCMP vehicle and officer putting police tape and pylons around an aircraft in a field near a small airplane hangar.

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What appeared to be a glider plane with the cockpit open was also seen just outside the front of the hangar.

TSB investigating

The TSB said investigators would be arriving at the scene of the crash Saturday morning.

Spokesperson Chris Krepski said it’s been determined that two aircraft were involved in the incident, however, Krepski said the sequence of events wasn’t known as of 7 p.m. on Friday evening.

Krepski said he didn’t have a lot of knowledge on glider planes and how they work, but said that “one of the ways gliders start their flight is by being towed by other aircraft.”

He said there’s likely no flight data or voice recorders in the tow plane as it isn’t required by law in this kind of aircraft, adding that investigators will be looking for other things that could put together the sequence of events.

Emergency crews at the scene of a deadly glider crash in southern Alberta on Friday, July 26, 2019.
Emergency crews at the scene of a deadly glider crash in southern Alberta on Friday, July 26, 2019. Michael King/ Global News

Gliding club ceases operations

The Cu Nim Gliding Club will cease operations until it can “grieve the loss and celebrate the memory of two of our members that represented the best of our club,” read a Facebook post from the group late Friday night.

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The club said soaring is a great sport supported by a passionate community.

“There are risks inherent to soaring and efforts are made to ensure safety for all,” the post continued.

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“Along with investigators, the club will evaluate its operations and meet with members before resuming operations at a time to be determined.”

‘Extremely rare’ incident

Jason Acker, president of the Alberta Soaring Council and chief flying instructor with the Edmonton Soaring Club, said Saturday that he knew both pilots personally but would not release names out of respect for grieving families.

There are many ways aircraft could come into close proximity with each other, like during the launch or on the airfield, he said.

“Midair collisions are extremely rare in our sport. Unfortunately, as we saw yesterday, tragically, it can lead to the loss of life when an aircraft does collide with another one,” Acker said.

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The aircraft carry collision avoidance systems to prevent incidents such as these.

“I think [investigators] will find that those devices couldn’t have prevented this accident because of the circumstances around it,” Acker said.

He said the sport is extremely safe, but accidents can happen.

“There is lots of space in the sky, so for two airplanes to come in close proximity like this and to collide it’s extremely rare,” Acker said.

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“It does underpin the risks that are associated with a sport like soaring. We have an incredible safety record in Canada but we can always strive to do better and we do through many programs and initiatives to try and make the sport as safe as we can.”

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Acker said the risks are akin to getting into a car.

“There is always the risk with colliding with another aircraft as we saw yesterday or just lapses in judgement or conditions change and pilots find themselves in situations where the risks increase,” he said.

WATCH (July 27, 2019): The gliding club where two pilots died on Friday southwest of Calgary has temporarily suspended operations. As Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, it’s a tragedy that has shaken the soaring community.

Gliding club stops operations after fatal crash southwest of Calgary
Gliding club stops operations after fatal crash southwest of Calgary

The council has 200 members, so the gliding community in the province is tight-knit. Losing two pilots has an enormous impact.

“Everyone knows everyone. We all compete together at competitions, we all meet together at soaring events around the province, so something as tragic as yesterday really does hit our community hard,” Acker said.

“With the shortage of instructors we have in the province that has an impact, but the psychological impact is incredible. Many of us do this for fun and recreation and when something like this happens, it highlights the risks that are associated that we take on when we participate in the sport and makes us question why we do this.

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“But we are a very resilient community and I know we are rallying around the club members in Black Diamond as well as the families to support them in this difficult time.”