A paramedic and a pilot died early Saturday when the chartered plane that airlifts people from Grand Manan island to hospitals on the New Brunswick mainland crashed near the island's airport runway.
A news release from Ambulance New Brunswick said the crash occurred at about 5 a.m. as the Atlantic Charters aircraft returned to the island off the province's southwest coast after flying a patient to the Saint John Regional Hospital.
The air ambulance service says another pilot and a registered nurse survived the crash, but did not provide further details on their condition. No patient was on board.
Dennis Greene, the mayor of the village of Grand Manan, said he'd been to the crash site and seen the wreckage in a wooded area near the site of the runway.
He said most residents of the small, tight-knit community knew both the pilot and the paramedic, and many have either been airlifted themselves or have friends and family who've used the service.
"It's a very tragic event for the island. Atlantic Charters is providing a great service to Grand Manan. They have saved a lot of lives and the island is in shock," he said in a telephone interview.
Tania Johnson, a 32-year-old Grand Manan resident who lives near the airport, said she had taken a flight on the plane when her infant son had to be checked for meningitis.
"Everybody on Grand Manan knows these guys," she said. "It's absolutely devastating to Grand Manan."
Johnson said the service is often critical to the seriously ill or badly injured because they aren't capable of taking the ferry ride to the mainland.
Paul Ward, the interim president at Ambulance New Brunswick, said in a news release it's too early to say what caused the crash.
"We extend our deepest condolences to the families, friends and colleagues of our Ambulance New Brunswick paramedic and the pilot from Atlantic Charters who lost their lives," he said.
Neither Ward nor a spokesperson from Atlantic Charters were available for further comment.
The air ambulance service said it wasn't releasing the names of the people killed pending notification of next of kin.
In a statement on their website, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada says it is sending a team of investigators to Grand Manan to gather information and assess the crash.
The release on the site says the plane involved was a Piper PA-31.
Ambulance New Brunswick is the organization licenced by the New Brunswick Health Department to provide land and air ambulance services in the province.