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Published: Tuesday, 10/12/2004

Plane's crash into lake tied to weight

The plane that plunged into frozen Lake Erie off Pelee Island in January, killing all 10 people on board, was 1,270 pounds overweight, Canada's Transportation Safety Board has found.

The crash of the Cessna Caravan aircraft occurred shortly after the Windsor, Ont.-bound flight took off from the island Jan. 17. In a news release, the safety board said an investigation has determined the aircraft was structurally sound and though its engine was producing power during the flight, it was carrying too much weight.

The safety board said the calculated weight for the people on board Georgian Express Flight 126 was 1,833 pounds, according to standard weights contained in Canada's Aeronautical Information Publication. However, the actual weight of the 10 passengers and their clothes was 2,400 pounds, a difference of 567 pounds.

The safety board didn't specify where the additional 703 pounds came from, but eight of the passengers had been hunting on the island, and searchers found luggage, rifles, and other belongings near the crash site.

Despite the excess-weight finding, the safety board hasn't ruled on the cause of the crash.

Denis Rivard, the safety board official heading the crash investigation, couldn't be reached for comment yesterday.

Responding to the weight finding, the board made two recommendations to Canada's Department of Transport. One calls for the use of actual passenger weights for commercial aircraft with a capacity of nine passengers or less. The other urges the department to consider changing the standard weights for passengers and carry-on luggage "to reflect the current realities."

In its release, the safety board cited studies showing the standard passenger weights now in use "are no longer representative of the general population."

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