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This article was published 2/7/2016 (1810 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The identity of the victims of Friday’s tragic plane crash have been released.
Capt. Bradley Ashcroft and Capt. Zachary Cloutier-Gill, members of the Royal Canadian Air Force, died after their plane crashed south of Hwy. 15 near Deacon’s Corner Friday around 9:30 a.m., a Canadian Armed Forces news release said.
Both were posted at 1 Canadian Air Division/Canadian NORAD Region headquarters in Winnipeg. The pair were not on duty at the time of the crash.
A friend of Ashcroft’s said the Shoal Lake resident would be missed.
"Brad was a very nice guy, he was very friendly and helpful," said said Matt Kaskiw in an email to the Free Press. "It was just this year that he had just got his intermediate pilot licence. He was so excited when he got it, he was very anxious to start flying."
Ashcroft had served in the Canadian Armed Forces for over nine years and was a member of the construction engineering branch. Cloutier-Gill served for nearly 12 years and was an air combat systems officer.
Kaskiw said he and Ashcroft had known each other for 18 years through the Air Cadets, adding he knew Ashcroft "had always wanted to be a pilot." He said Ashcroft had spent the last five years training in Kingston, Ont.
"He was well-liked in the town of Shoal Lake. He will be greatly missed from the town and from his family and friends," said Kaskiw.
The plane was a four-person Piper Cherokee PA-28 that had belonged to the Manitoba chapter of the Recreational Aircraft Association. According to the Piper’s website, the plane was donated to the RAA by Geraldine and Kenneth Pennington. Chapter president Jim Oke said the plane was donated approximately 18 months ago. The website said the plane was "sitting outside for a few years" before it was donated.
Oke said the plane "required a general cleanup," adding the it was polished, waxed and received replacement rubber hoses and a new radio.
"The aircraft has been operating regularly," said Oke. "I flew it myself within the last two weeks, and we considered it reliable and functioning well."
Records previously available on the airplane’s website indicated Ashcroft had reserved the plane from 8 a.m. to noon.
"This is a sad day for the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Canadian Armed Forces," Major-General Christian Drouin, commander of 1 Canadian Air Division and the Canadian NORAD Region, said in a release. "We have lost two members of our military family who served their country well. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families, friends and loved ones, whom we are working to support in the wake of this tragedy."
Speaking with reporters Friday, Oke said it was unlikely the crash was caused by the weather, considering the good flying conditions.
"One of the factors in an aircraft mishap is generally weather, and if the weather is a bright, sunny, calm day, it’s not generally a factor," Oke said. "Beyond that, it would be simply speculation."
The plane was flown by individuals who have their private or commercial pilot’s licence to help build up hours in the air.
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is currently investigating and said new information may be available Monday.
RCMP did not respond to a request for comment, and Ashcroft’s family members were unavailable.
— with files from Aidan Geary
Manager of audience engagement for news
Erin Lebar is a multimedia producer who spends most of her time writing music- and culture-related stories for the Arts & Life section. She also co-hosts the Winnipeg Free Press's weekly pop-culture podcast, Bury the Lede.