Five foreigners, including a Canadian pilot from B.C., died on Saturday when their private plane crashed into the sea shortly after taking off from Roatán island, a tourist destination on the Caribbean Sea coast of Honduras.
Patrick Forseth, who also went by the name “Danny,” is from B.C. but had been living in Honduras. Forseth was flying the plane when he died in the crash, his family confirmed on Sunday.
He was well known in the aviation community in Honduras and in B.C., according to his sister Jenna Forseth.
Local authorities did not immediately offer a cause for the accident. An investigation into the cause of the crash is ongoing.
“Canadian consular officials in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, are in contact with local authorities and are providing consular assistance to the family of the victim,” Global Affairs Canada said in a statement on Sunday.
A written statement from Forseth’s family read in part that they “have suffered a tremendous personal loss and out of respect for the families, [they] ask that the sufficient time be given to the professionals investigating the accident to find the actual cause of the accident without speculation on the cause.”
Armed forces spokesman Jose Domingo Meza said four of the victims were from the United States.
Civil aviation authorities from Juan Manuel Galvez International Airport confirmed the victims’ nationalities by reviewing their passports.
The Piper PA-32-260 plane was headed to the tourist port city of Trujillo, about 80 kilometres from Roatán, a picturesque island frequented by tourists from the United States, Canada and Europe, authorities said.
‘Rocks you to the core’
Torontonian John Enman was one of the last people to see Forseth.
Enman was travelling in Honduras with his wife when he caught a short flight with Forseth from Trujillo on mainland Honduras to Roatán island.
Enman said that during the flight, Forseth explained he had been delayed because of mechanical issues — a broken wire from the ignition to the battery, which a mechanic had fixed.
“It was unsettling to say the least,” he said.
“We just were happy to be on the ground and didn’t even fathom that anything was going to happen after that.”
After they landed, Enman said goodbye to Forseth before catching a flight to Houston en route to Toronto. Forseth was about to fly back to mainland Honduras.
When Enman landed in Houston, he started getting WhatsApp messages from friends about the crash.
“It just rocks you to the core,” he said. “You know, just shocks you just to think that 10 minutes later, he’s in the water dead.”
Ryan Van Haren, a career pilot and president of the B.C. General Aviation Association, said it was unlikely that a single faulty wire would affect a plane’s ability to fly safely.
He explained that plane engines are designed to keep running once they’re in the air, and don’t require a connection to a battery to stay functional
“I can’t think of any one wire that would cause an engine to fail once it has already been started,” he said.
‘A very special person’
Edil Mendez, a close friend of Forseth’s, said in an interview from Roatán that he was “a good friend, good teacher, a very special person.”
Mendez said Forseth was well regarded in the local Honduran community where he had been living, and described him as an experienced pilot who had previously dealt with emergency situations.
Mendez described a March 2018 flight from San Pedro Sula to Roatán, when Forseth’s plane’s landing gear failed, forcing him to pull off a high-risk emergency landing.
“I’m crying, I can’t believe [this],” he said.