Family, friends identify duo involved in Springbank Airport crash

Click to play video: '‘She’s a survivor’: Family of woman critically injured in plane crash speaks'
‘She’s a survivor’: Family of woman critically injured in plane crash speaks
WATCH: The family of a 22-year-old woman severely injured in a plane crash at Springbank Airport is speaking to Global News. Sarah Offin reports. – Apr 26, 2022

The father of the woman in Friday’s plane crash near the Springbank Airport is optimistic for her recovery, but the reasons for it are still a mystery.

Jamie Gallagher said his 22-year-old daughter Megan was receiving instruction on how to fly a recently-refurbished 1981 Mooney M20K airplane.

“From what I understood, they left the airport at Springbank and the pilot who was instructing her, he took her over to his airfield – which is south of Springbank Airport – because it was much better conditions,” Jamie told Global News.

“They flew around for over an hour with nothing and then coming back to the Springbank airport is when it happened.”

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Megan was a certified pilot, one of the few female crop dusters in Canada, and was working out of Fort St. John, B.C., as a flight instructor following a multi-year stint teaching novice pilots in Thunder Bay, Ont.

Jamie said she would go above and beyond to help her students, and would sometimes surprise him with a visit when she was in the area instructing a new pilot.

“She always thought about other people before herself.”

The path of the flight involving Megan Gallagher and Michael Wilton on April 22, 2022, that crashed near the Springbank Airport. Global News

Friday’s flight was to get Megan familiar with the controls of the aircraft, controls that allow a pilot to fly without the use of visuals, also known as instrument flight rules (IFR).

“She had to be taught about the controls because this plane was her student’s plane, but he couldn’t fly IFR,” Jamie told Global News.

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The owner of the recently-certified plane – Megan’s student – was planning on flying it across Canada with his family. That student was not in the plane Friday afternoon when Megan was getting familiar with the controls.

Just after 3:15 p.m., the plane crashed on the north side of Highway 1 west of Calgary, just short of the Springbank Airport runway.

Megan was rushed to hospital in life-threatening condition. An unnamed 45-year-old man was declared dead on the scene.

Click to play video: 'Company identifies pilot killed in crash west of Calgary as father of two'
Company identifies pilot killed in crash west of Calgary as father of two

On Sunday, Flightsimple Aircraft Sales identified Michael Wilton as the man in the crash. Wilton was Flightsimple’s president.

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Michael Wilton stands in front of a plane, in an undated photo. Wilton died in a plane crash near Springbank Airport on April 22, 2022. Facebook

A statement on the website called Wilton “one of a kind and irreplaceable.”

“He was larger than life, a hero to his twin boys Tom and Will. He was well-loved for his courage, generosity and sense of humour,” the statement reads.

The Transportation Safety Board conducted an on-site investigation over the weekend, an investigation that continues with the remnants of the plane.

Jamie said Megan suffered spinal injuries, facial damage that will require plastic surgery, but avoided needing eye surgery.

“She doesn’t give up,” the father said. “She’s a strong lady. She won’t give up.”

Megan pursued a flying career shortly after graduating from high school, and even flew the family to visit Jamie’s mother in The Pas, Man.

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The return flight was beset with forest fire smoke, Jamie said, and even though her passengers were visibly unsettled, Megan continued calmly.

“She was totally confident. She wasn’t scared. She wasn’t worried. She just laughed at them and continued flying.”

Jamie Gallagher, Megan’s father, tells Global News about her daughter’s love for teaching pilots, pictured on April 26, 2022. Global News

Being the father of a pilot for nearly six years, Jamie was familiar with the risk his daughter took in her profession. And the fact she survived a crash was a surprise to him.

“This is rare. Pilots don’t have accidents and survive, and when they do, they get back up into the air,” he said.

Jamie also recognized the path for Megan’s recovery is likely to be a lengthy one.

“I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of hard times we’re going to have, but we’ll be fine. We’re a strong family. We got a lot of support from within our family and the aviation community.”

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“All we can do is be hopeful that the best is going to happen.”

A crowdfunding page has been set up to help Megan with any medical and recovery bills.

–with files from Sarah Offin, Global News

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