Members of the Springfield Flying Club are mourning the loss of two of their fellow flyers today.
Gilbert Bourrier, 64, and Tony Butt, 48, both of Winnipeg, were killed Wednesday night in a plane crash near the town of Manitou in southwestern Manitoba.
Bourrier was flying the red Acrosport II, a two-seat, open-cockpit biplane, when it crashed at about 8 p.m. into the community lagoon, 1.5 kilometres north of Manitou, and was partially submerged before people could get to the wreckage.
The pair had flown out of Lyncrest Airport, which is in the R.M. of Springfield, just east of the city, and is home to the Springfield Flying Club.
"They were both good guys," said one club member, who did not want to give his name.
Another said "it is unfortunate... They were the corner posts of our flying club. It is a very sad day for the club," the member said.
Another said Bourrier was "just a decent guy... He was always giving with his time and with his help."
An eyewitness to the crash told the Free Press late Wednesday night he feared the worst when the plane dove into the lagoon.
"They had one fellow out and they were working on him (using CPR), but the other (man) was still inside," said Russ Langseth, an amateur pilot who was at the airport when the plane took off.
"It's terrible... something I never want to see again."
Langseth said the plane had just taken off, heading west, and was turning when he heard the engine get louder. He said the plane made a low pass over the runway and then started to roll.
"I saw it angling toward the lagoon, and in a fraction of a second, it hit it," he said. "It happened so fast."
Two Transportation Safety Board investigators are at the scene taking photos and trying to determine what led to the fatal plunge. Investigator Ross Peden said it appears the plane suffered some kind of control loss, which will be investigated further. He said the plane is badly damaged and likely hit the water with tremendous force.
With this type of aircraft, any chance of surviving the impact would have been "slim," Peden said.
TSB officials said police used a backhoe to pull the plane from the water and remove the pilot. Peden said TSB officials will likely take parts of the plane back to Winnipeg for further analysis.
"It's very badly damaged," Peden said of the wreckage.
RCMP Sgt. Line Karpish said a group of people who were at the airport saw the plane go down and rushed over to the partially submerged wreckage to help.
Karpish said witnesses were able to pull the passenger out of the plane. They performed CPR, she said, but efforts to resuscitate him were not successful.
The pilot was still inside the wreckage, she said.
Langseth, a retired pharmacist, said he's an aircraft enthusiast and spends time at the airport when different planes come in. He said he talked to the pilot of the downed plane just moments before takeoff.
He said the man told him they had been out for a pleasure ride and had "stopped in for dinner and to fly out of a different airport."
Manitou Mayor Jake Goertzen said the town has one of the oldest rural airstrips in the province and is a popular destination for recreational pilots; it's about a 25-minute flight from Winnipeg. He said it's probably been 20 years since Manitou has seen a similar tragedy.
"They were just visitors. It happens quite often -- people pop into town for a coffee or whatever," Goertzen said.
Goertzen said the men went to the hotel for a bite to eat before they took off. He said they hadn't been in the air very long when they encountered problems.
"Witnesses said you could hear their engine was not running right," Goertzen said, standing on a gravel road near he crash site. "They tried to land back on the strip, they just didn't make it."
Residents said the tragedy cast a shadow over an exciting time in the community. Manitou beat Hamiota to win the Kraft Celebration tour. TSN SportsCentre will broadcast live from Manitou tonight, and the community will receive $25,000 to put toward arena upgrades.
"Today it was supposed to be something else we were on the map for," said Lisa Jago, whose family spray-painted three large hay bales with the TSN logo and made a fake tub of Kraft dinner.
Jago said she and her family were on their porch and watched the plane take off. Moments later, they heard a loud bang.
"You could see it going down and we heard a thunk," she said.
Jago said her husband, Clare, jumped in his truck and was one of the first people on scene. He helped pull the passenger from the plane, she said, and tried to revive him.
"It was a pretty awful thing to have to respond to," she said, noting her husband is having a tough time.