EDMONTON — The Transportation Safety Board of Canada says a fatal helicopter crash in northwestern Alberta last year was due to the pilot’s decision to fly in poor weather conditions at night.
An investigation report by the board says four people, including the pilot, died when a privately registered helicopter crashed near Grande Prairie, Alta., in January 2021.
At the time, the RCMP said the four victims were all from one family.
Relatives of Wade and Aubrey Balisky later identified them as having died in the crash, as well as their children, eight-year-old Jewel and two-year-old Fleur.
The safety board says the pilot, who took off from a farm near Eaglesham, Alta., and was to fly to DeBolt, Alta., made an inaccurate assessment of the weather and flew in conditions not recommended at night.
It says deteriorating weather and poor visibility made the pilot, who was not named in the report, lose control shortly before the crash.
The helicopter was destroyed after it caught fire when hitting the ground.
“Thorough flight planning allows for informed decisions on the ground to avoid the need for potentially more difficult in-flight decisions,” said the board's report, which was released Wednesday.
“If pilots do not access all available weather information, such as weather briefings from NAV CANADA flight service specialists, there is an increased risk that they will fly into hazardous weather conditions.”
The board said that since 2013, it has investigated seven other fatal private aircraft accidents that were operating under visual flight rules, which require pilots to avoid flying in adverse weather conditions.
“If the Canadian Aviation Regulations do not clearly define what is meant by ‘visual reference to the surface,’ night VFR flights may be conducted with inadequate visual references, which increases the risk of an accident as a result of controlled-flight-into-terrain and loss-of-control accidents,” the agency said.
The family of Wade and Aubrey Balisky have said that they are survived by their three other children, 16-year-old Chevey, 14-year-old Remington and 12-year-old Indya.
"The surviving kids get to stay together. They do not lack love and care between the two extended families," a relative said at the time. "They will be raised in love, security, safety and surrounded by family. They will be OK."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 11, 2022.
The Canadian Press