VANCOUVER, B.C. – An 82-year-old man who flew his plane into an apartment building in a Vancouver, B.C., suburb was a well-respected pilot who flew for the Royal Air Force during World War II when he was just a teenager.
Peter Garrison died Friday when his plane flew into a Richmond apartment building with so much force it ended up near the elevator shaft.
The cause of the crash remains under investigation.
Don Hague, the vice president of the Aero Club of B.C., said Garrison, a member of the club, gave an overview of his wartime flying experiences at a meeting last month.
Garrison had thousands of hours of flying time and flew over the Atlantic Ocean several times in the same small plane involved in the crash, Hague said.
Garrison appeared to be in good health, Hague said. “I would assume, like all other pilots, he went for his regular medical checkups,” he added.
After age 40, a pilot has to undergo medical checkups every two years to maintain a pilot’s license.
Transportation Safety Board of Canada investigators are searching through thousands of pieces of debris from the building, the plane and personal items from the people whose ninth-floor apartment was obliterated when the plane rammed the building.
Cynthia Lockrey, a spokeswoman for the city of Richmond, said the building is structurally sound but uninhabitable because of burst water pipes and damage to the power system.
It may be two months before all residents can go home, Lockrey said.
About 135 tenants of the building, who are both owners and renters, have registered with emergency services and are getting free food and accommodations for six days.
After that, residents will have to rely on relatives or their own insurance companies, Lockrey said.
Two people in the apartment were hurt, but neither suffered life-threatening injuries.
Witnesses said the twin-engine Piper Seneca appeared to be flying erratically soon after taking off from nearby Vancouver International Airport on a short flight to Pitt Meadows, just east of Vancouver.
The plane had recently been rebuilt and recertified for flight after an incident in February 2006 in which its landing gear collapsed on an airport runway, damaging the engines, said Bill Yearwood, a spokesman for Canada’s Transportation Safety Board.
The plane did not have a cockpit voice recorder or flight data recorder.