Aerial images lost in crash

A plane that crashed near Kananaskis tragically killed two people on board and also damaged valuable aerial images.

Eagle Mapping Service was hired to conduct LiDAR, a form of radar that takes a three-dimensional map, of Okanagan floodplains.

The Okanagan Basin Water Board announced back in April that it had received $1.45 million from the National Disaster Mitigation Program and B.C. Community Emergency Preparedness Fund to photograph the area using light detection and ranging technology, or LiDAR.

A pilot and technician were flying in the twin-engine aircraft and on their way home to Calgary from Penticton on Aug. 1, they crashed.

The Piper PA-31 went down in the Rae Glacier area and witnesses told police they heard the sound of an engine and then saw something explode. Transportation Safety Board has now taken over the investigation.

Anna Warwick Sears, executive director of the OBWB said the news was tragic and a smoky summer caused problematic conditions for aerial mapping to be done.

“The biggest most difficult part of the project was working around the smoke,” she tells Castanet News.

Sears says they started flying and capturing LiDAR in late March, but had to wait for the snow in higher elevations to melt.

“They had been doing a bunch of flying in July when they could when it wasn’t smoky,” she said.

Crews are working to recover the data that was damaged during the crash, but Sears said they are going to re-fly the areas between Kelowna and Vernon, in Mission Creek and the area along upper elevations on the Westside.

“They had to replace a bunch of the equipment and of course get a new plane and… it was hard on all of the people who worked for the company to lose someone because their whole business is aerial mapping and photography,” she said.

Not all of the mapping was damaged and Sears says they still have quite a bit of data and the lost data won’t have delayed the overall project.

“The areas in 2017 that flooded all along the lakeshore and the Okanagan river channel were all done first, we have all that data,” she said.

Sears added once finished, this will be the first time there is three-dimensional imagery of the entire watershed.

Alanna Kelly

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