WINNIPEG —; The sight of seeing a small passenger plane crash into a field is a moment Heather Manchulenko said she will never forget.
“This is the kind of thing you see on movies, not in real life. And just horrible, right away,” Manchulenko said.
A Piper PA-28 plane crashed on the eastern outskirts of Winnipeg, near Deacons Corner, on Canada Day. Two members of the Canadian Forces, Capt. Zachary Cloutier-Gill and Capt. Bradley Ashcroft, who were off-duty at the time, were killed.
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Manchulenko and her family was driving south on the Perimeter on Friday morning, near the TransCanada Highway, when they noticed a plane taking off from Lyncrest Airfield. She said the plane appeared to be flying very low to the ground and was having a difficult time gaining altitude.
“Instead of flying up, the plane did a complete nosedive, disappeared behind the hill again and then there was a big cloud of smoke,” Manchulenko explained.
She said her husband Kevin ran towards the crash site seconds after it landed but was blocked off by the Red River Floodway. The remains of the plane had been consumed by flames and Manchulenko said they were distraught that they were not able to get the men help in time.
“No matter how hard we wanted – nothing we could do.”
Flags at 17 Wing air base are now at half mast, as both Cloutier-Gill and Ashcroft were Royal Canadian Air Force members and worked at 1 Canadian Air Division.
“Winnipeg and Manitoba is the beating heart of the air force. To lose two members of our RCAF family is very shocking and very sad for all of us,” said David Lavalee, public affairs officer of 1 Canadian Air Division.
The Transportation Safety Board said its investigators are continuing to pick through the wreckage in order to determine the cause of the crash and expects to have answers shortly. It confirmed on Monday that the small plane did not have a blackbox on board.