COLD LAKE, Alta. – An airshow in Alberta took a tragic turn on Sunday when a plane crashed and “disintegrated,” killing the pilot.
A public affairs officer at Canadian Forces Base Cold Lake said the T-28 Trojan went down during a performance at the show Sunday afternoon.
The pilot, Bruce Evans, died in the crash, said Capt. Mathew Strong.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan expressed his sympathies late Sunday, tweeting: “My sincere condolences to Mr. Evans’ family and friends.”
The crash occurred in view of horrified airshow spectators, among them Cathy Heron, a city councillor from St. Albert, Alta.
“It just had gone and inverted and done a loop or something, and then it just nose-dived right into the ground,” said Heron.
“It just sort of disintegrated into dust in the hill.”
Edmonton resident Jim McCulley said he was watching the show with a friend from the VIP tent when the plane went down.
“I haven’t been to an airshow before, everything just seemed normal,” he said.
“I actually did not see the plane hit the ground, I looked away for a second and we just heard this kind of pop.”
McCulley said it took him a moment to realize that what was unfolding was not a planned part of the show.
“I was shocked, both my friend and I were in disbelief,” he said.
McCulley said he and his friend were still stunned as they walked around the grounds where there was a trade show and display.
After about a half hour with the announcement the show was closing, McCulley said mood was eerily quiet as the remaining spectators filed out.
“I’m sure there was a mix of emotions going around,” he said.
Evans grew up in an Canadian air force family with his father working as an aircraft maintenance engineer, his biography on the Cold Lake airshow website states.
The Calgary man ran his own airborne geophysical survey company Firefly Airborne Surveys combining his training as a professional geologist and passion for aviation.
Through his career, Evans accumulated over 4,100 hours of flight time.
In 2007, Evans purchased the Trojan, a single engine, propeller driven aircraft that was manufactured in 1955 and served in the U.S. Navy.
The Cold Lake Airshow is a two-day event hosted by the Canadian Forces that features pilots and aircraft from across the continent including Canada’s Snowbirds demonstration team.
The Transportation Safety Board said a team has been sent out to survey the crash and determine whether a full investigation is needed.
A spokeswoman said the team was to be on scene into the evening and more information was expected on Monday.