Kingston police have confirmed that seven people are dead, including three minors, after a small aircraft crashed in Kingston.
The Transportation Safety Board says five of the people were American and two were Canadian, but they are not providing any names of those who died.
However, friends told Global News that a family — Otabek Oblokulov, his wife Zamira and their three kids — are among the victims.
Oblokulov worked in construction and was part of the Uzbek community in Texas, according to one friend.
“I cannot believe that we lost him,” Askarali Karimov said.
“He was the energy of the community.”
The family had three children in total — one about four or five years of age, the other eight, as well as a 15-year-old son. he said.
Karimov remembered Oblokulov as a “tremendous guy.”
“I used to make jokes that whoever makes him mad should get a reward,” he said. “He was never in a bad mood.”
Police were made aware of a missing aircraft around 5 p.m. on Wednesday, which prompted a search of a wooded area in Kingston’s west end.
On Thursday, the Transportation Safety Board says the plane “collided with terrain” about 2.8 nautical miles north of Kingston at approximately 5 p.m.
The downed plane was eventually located Wednesday evening in a wooded area north of Creekford Road and two kilometres west of Bayridge Drive.
Police originally would not release the number of dead, but on Thursday a police source confirmed that the plane was carrying seven people, all of whom died.
They said on Thursday morning that two children had died as a result of the crash, but changed that number to three later in the day.
Strong winds and heavy rain were reported at the time the plane went down, but it is not clear if weather was a factor in the crash. Environment Canada was calling for wind gusts up to 90 km/h on Wednesday evening.
In a press conference held near the crash site on Thursday evening, the transportation board’s lead investigator on the crash, Ken Webster, said that during the flight, there was some communication from the plane en route to Kingston that weather was deteriorating, but Webster says it’s unclear if the weather was the cause of the accident.
The plane, which the Transportation Safety Board says was a Piper PA-32 Cherokee Six registered in the United States, was travelling from Buttonville Airport on its way to Kingston.
Webster said that the plane seats six, although its not known what the seating arrangements were during the flight.
Webster says that the plane’s final destination was Quebec City, but there was communications with the Kingston airport that indicated the plane was trying to land in Kingston, although it’s unclear if this was an emergency landing or not.
It is also currently unclear if the plane began its journey in another location, but Webster says that he believes the flight was a private one, and not a commercial flight.
Webster said the angle of impact was very steep, but there was no fire on impact. Webster said all parts of the airplane were located at the crash site, but the plane was completely destroyed.
He added this type of plane does not have a “black box,” which are required for larger planes, but there are other electronic devices that might have been able to record events before the crash.
Capt. Graeme Scott, public affairs officer with 8 Wing Trenton, says their Joint Rescue Coordination Centre was notified that an aircraft’s emergency beacon was activated around 6 p.m.
Scott says the Air Force deployed its 424 transport and rescue squadron in a Griffon helicopter, which arrived at the scene in Kingston just after 7 p.m.
Trained search and rescue technicians dropped down from the helicopter into the wooded area north of Creekford Road. Scott says they were then able to confirm around 8 p.m. they had found the plane that disappeared just hours before.
The coroner’s office and investigators with the Transportation Safety Board were brought in to assess the crash site, and the investigation is still ongoing.
Transportation Safety Board spokesperson Chris Krepski said the agency is working with its U.S. counterpart, the National Transportation Safety Board, adding that there is “American interest” in the crash.
The investigation will involve inspecting electronic instruments and devices that were in the plane, examining the aircraft’s engine, conducting interviews with those involved and other investigative techniques, the board says.
According to a safety board news release, the next steps of the investigation will analyze the sequence of events that led to the crash by gathering information from devices found in the aircraft.
Investigators will also be looking to see if weather conditions at the time contributed to the crash, as well as looking at previous incidents involving similar aircraft to determine any mitigating factors.
Webster said the Transportation Safety Board will be on scene in Kingston for several days as part of their investigation.
With files from Alanna Rizza, Global News