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Kelowna  

Miracle they survived

UPDATE: 3:15 p.m.

The pilot is sharing his account of the Tuesday night plane crash.

Brent Miskuski says a malfunction of the onboard fuel computer gave him a misreading on the fuel level, causing the plane to run out of fuel.

“We were getting indications we had at least another hour-and-a-half of fuel, false indications,” explains Miskuski. “We had a double-engine failure, simultaneously, at 8,500 feet.”

As darkness was setting in, Miskuski said he had no other option than to try to land the plane immediately.

“We had to do a nosedive onto a field,” says Miskuski.

“After surveying it, we flew under the power lines, took out the bottom wire, had to quickly pull up to clear an irrigation pipe, and then we used up 1,800 feet of grass, went through a fence and then navigated down the aisle of a Christmas-tree farm, taking out approximately 300 trees.”

Miskuski says the plane survived the crash very well, considering how they were forced to land, remaining mostly intact.

“The aircraft is relatively in good shape, but given the cost of repairs it is a total loss.”

He says he was confident he would land the plane safely.

“I've got 25 years of flying experience and did a lot of bush flying that attributed to my ability to make a quick decision,” says Miskuski.

“I chose to scare the hell out of the passengers to put it into the dive, because that way I knew I could make the field. I made the dive, levelled out and then made the field. It was terrifying for the passengers, but we were ensured a good landing. I was confident we would make a smooth landing, but I literally had five seconds to make a decision.”

The plane will now be dismantled and taken out by truck.

FortisBC is working to restore service to one customer in Rock Creek. 


ORIGINAL

The spirit of Christmas and a talented pilot are being praised after a group of Kelowna residents survived a terrifying plane crash Tuesday night. 

The twin-engine plane was flying from Lake Havasu, Ariz., on the way back to Kelowna when the engines cut out just before Big White.

“Going from 13,000 feet to crashing into trees in 15 seconds ... in the dark,” recounts crash survivor Kelly Mulzet.

“The crash itself was horrific, except we didn't die, that is all I can say.”

He says the group of six, including the pilot, had taken off from Lake Havasu, landed and fuelled up in Boise, Idaho, and were almost home when both engines cut out.

The pilot acted quickly and was able to guide the plane into a field between Beaverdell and Rock Creek that was fortunately home to a Christmas tree farm.

“We were so lucky,” says Mulzet. “Both engines quit as we were just coming to the crest of Big White. Thank God we didn't go over the crest. We went back down into the grass and the only thing that saved our lives was that a lady had planted a Christmas tree farm.”

He says the plane hit the ground hard, heading back into the air, before sliding through the tree farm at more than 200 mph.

“We took out 1,000 Christmas trees,” says Mulzet, still in disbelief. “All the Christmas trees were two to three years old, just six feet tall thank god, that is what saved our lives, I am telling ya.”

He says as the plane began to crash down, they all thought they were going to die.

“The girls were screaming, we saw the props quit and it was dark. I didn't have a shadow of a doubt that that was it,” explains Mulzet.

“We got so lucky. The lady told us that where we landed is the only place in that area with Christmas trees and we landed right there. If it had been any other trees at bigger size, even one tree of bigger size, we would be dead.”

Mulzet says they are incredibly fortunate they had a bush pilot with decades of experiences at the helm who made decisions in that moment that saved their lives.

“He knew exactly what to do,” says Mulzet.

Once the group was out of the plane and had caught their breath, they followed the sounds of barking dogs to find a local woman's house. The resident took them in and helped them call for help.

They crashed at about 9:25 p.m. Tuesday night and eventually made it home to Kelowna, all in one piece, at 3 a.m. Wednesday morning.

“It is just unbelievable,” says Mulzet. “The craziest thing to happen in my life.”

While crashing, the plane reportedly struck some wires and a pole, knocking out service to the surrounding area. Castanet is waiting to hear back from FortisBC regarding the service disruption. 

Castanet has calls into the pilot and the Transportation Safety Board and will update this story as more information becomes available.

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