The pilot of a small plane that crashed in southwestern Ontario caught the flying bug young, joining the Royal Canadian Air Cadets at 12 and earning his gliding and powered-flight licences as he rose to the highest rank in the organization.
Police on Sunday identified Marko Misic, 20, as the pilot of an ill-fated sightseeing trip that left four dead, all from the Toronto area. Mr. Misic's older brother, Tony, said that the victims were friends who shared an interest in aerospace.
Shortly before sunset on Friday, the young pilot was at the controls of a Cessna 172 that ran into difficulty. The rented four-seater plane crashed into a field in Mapleton Township, northwest of Kitchener, Ont., killing everybody on board.
Vivienne Luk, whose 19-year-old younger sister Victoria was one of the victims, said the trip was meant to be an adventure to mark the end of summer. She explained that her family was protective and wouldn't normally allow what they thought of as riskier activities. But her sister had never been flying and persisted.
"We thought, you know, she had spent all summer working and she was doing really well in school – and she really wanted to go," Ms. Luk said. "So we thought we would give her this opportunity."
Victoria Luk was about to start her third year in industrial engineering at the University of Toronto and knew Marko Misic through her summer job at Bombardier, where he was also working. She was set to be a bridesmaid at her older sister's wedding, which was scheduled for this Saturday.
"The last time I saw her was her practising walking down the aisle, walking to the pace of the music," Ms. Luk said. "And that was the last activity we did together."
Mohammed Shahnawaz Zia, 23, and Wasay Rizwan, 27, both from the Toronto area, were also killed in the crash, according to police.
Mr. Misic and all three of his passengers were employees at Bombardier, where they worked in maintenance engineering for commercial aircraft at the company's Toronto site.
Mr. Misic and Ms. Luk were summer students, while Mr. Zia and Mr. Rizwan were permanent employees, a company spokeswoman said.
"We are deeply saddened by this loss," Christina Peikert said on Sunday evening.
The incident, which is under investigation by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, has left four families reeling.
"He was my best friend; me and him did everything together," said Tony Misic. "It's really tough. I just believe he's still beside me. He's still with me."
Mr. Misic recalled Sunday afternoon that he and his brother had joined the cadets at the same time. "He just fell in love with it," he said. "He knew that's what he wanted to do for the rest of his life."
Marko Misic rose in his cadet squadron to the rank of Warrant Officer 1st Class, picking up a number of flying awards along the way. He dreamed of using his flying skills to fight forest fires, helped inspire his sister Josipa to join the cadets and get her own pilot's licence and later earned his commercial license, allowing him to carry paying passengers. He was studying aerospace engineering at Ryerson University and was about to start his third year, Tony Misic said.
A TSB investigator probing the crash was not available for an interview Sunday and Bob Connors, the general manager of the Waterloo Wellington Flight Centre, from which Marko Misic rented the plane, did not want to speculate on the possible cause of the crash. What is known is that the plane appeared to lose power before going down.
Llori Nicholls and her husband were walking their dog when they saw a plane flying erratically. They initially thought the pilot might be doing stunts but then heard the engine sputtering.
"The nose was pointed straight down," she told the CBC. "Unfortunately the engine gave completely out. It went dead silent and plummeted down. And within a second or two we heard a really loud bump and our hearts sank."
Mr. Connors said Mr. Misic was a regular at the flight centre. The trip Friday was planned to include a journey to Toronto and then to Niagara Falls, Mr. Connors said, but the pilot appeared to have changed his mind and returned without visiting the falls.
The plane was spotted on radar as it passed Waterloo, according to Mr. Connors, and continued north before crashing in a region where pilots often trained.
"It would be an area he was familiar with," he said.