Two of the four people killed in a Thursday night plane crash north of Kelowna have now been identified.
Former Alberta premier Jim Prentice, 60, and Ken Gellatly, the father-in-law of one of Prentice’s daughters, were aboard the small plane.
“To lose two family members at once is unbelievably painful and we are certain you will appreciate and respect our wishes for privacy at this time and the coming weeks,” said the Prentice family in a statement.
Prentice was a former Alberta PC premier and former federal cabinet minister in the Conservative government of Stephen Harper. ( Read more on Prentice’s background here) He left federal politics in 2010 and took a job as the senior executive vice-president of CIBC. He later ran for the Alberta PC leadership.
Social media sites were flooded with homages to Prentice, shortly after news of his death was released.
Among those struck by the news was former Kelowna Lake Country MP Ron Cannan, who worked closely with Prentice from 2006 to 2010. They also shared a lot of downtime having to commute back and forth to Ottawa together.
“He always had time for people and was very well respected from all political parties and staff and media,” said Cannan, adding that he related to Prentice as a family man above all else, and the two often discussed their daughters in those moments.
“He was a gentleman.”
An instance of Prentice’s character that stood out to Cannan was when the then industry minister was visiting Kelowna for business, and they’d taken time out to play a game of golf.
One of Cannan’s constituents had an idea for a business he wanted to pitch, and Cannan invited him along.
“He rode around on the course with (Prentice) for awhile,” said Cannan, noting that the conversation eventually led to a local business being launched successfully. He said Prentice also formed a good relationship with the Westbank First Nation, when he was cabinet as minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.
Premier Christy Clark offered some insight into Prentice’s character in the hours after the crash.
“This is a terrible loss for our country. It’s a rare privilege to meet people of Jim’s character in any walk of life. He was a man of his word, would keep confidences, and his handshake was worth more than any written agreement,” said Clark, in a statement.
“Simply by being himself, Jim Prentice elevated political discourse in this country with his dignity, kindness, and focus. Jim devoted his life to making Canada better – and he succeeded.”
While Prentice’s political colleagues have confirmed his death through outpourings, the authorities are taking a cautious approach.
RCMP Cpl. Dan Moskaluk said the coroner is dealing with the recovery of the four killed in the crash, while the transportation board will investigate the wreckage to determine what caused the plane to crash.
“It was a catastrophic crash and there were no survivors,” said Moskaluk.
He confirmed the Cessna Citation private business aircraft, owned by Norjet, a Calgary-based firm, had departed Kelowna International Airport at about 8:30 p.m. Thursday night en route to Springbank, outside of Calgary, and that weather conditions were heavy rain.
“I know that heavy rain was felt across the Okanagan Valley but difficult to say if that was an issue in this case,” he said.
The Transportation Safety Board released a statement late Friday saying that there were no emergency calls or signals from the high impact crash that scattered debris over a vast space.
RCMP, with the help of a police dog, were able to get to the scene just before midnight, and received assistance from local search and rescue volunteers.
“It’s a complex scene right now and it will take some time for the investigation of the crash site to be completed,” Moskaluk said.
“The terrain is hilly and densely forested, but we were able to access the site from a nearby forest service road.”
“Investigators located the crash site approximately four kilometres into a heavily wooded area east of Lake Country,” Moskaluk said in an earlier news release.
The site of the crash was northeast of Winfield, about four kms north of Beaver Lake Road and about 18 kms north of Kelowna.
Kelowna RCMP and Lake Country RCMP detachments were alerted by the Surrey Air Traffic Control Centre that they had lost contact with a Citation jet shortly after its takeoff from Kelowna airport.