Victim of float plane crash would 'light up a room'

The 20-year-old pilot who survived a float plane crash in B.C.'s South Chilcotin region was recovering in hospital Friday, as friends and family mourned the deaths of two passengers.

The pilot, who has been identified as Spencer Neufeld from Williams Lake, is recovering after surgery at a hospital in Kamloops.

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Two other men, 20-year-old Michael Hiebert from Prince George and a 29-year-old man from Aldergrove, died after the plane crashed shortly after takeoff Wednesday on Tyaughton Lake, located 100 kilometres west of Lillooet.

Hiebert was described as a genuine friend who had an adventurous spirit.

"He would light up a room," said Ashley McComber, a friend who worked at Northland Dodge in Prince George with Hiebert. "He was super friendly and always had an open heart."

McComber didn't know why Hiebert was on the plane, but said he was always searching for the next adventure. She said "Little Mikey," as they called him at work, had big dreams to explore the world and loved hanging out with his friends and playing guitar.

She said he had seven older sisters and one younger.

Tributes poured in on social media, many of which praised Hiebert for being an awesome friend and always having a smile on his face.

"Can't believe you're gone, you are very missed. Fly high brother ... till we meet again," wrote Jasmin Vickers.

"My one and only baby brother ... there are no words for the loss we feel ... you were an amazing man, a wonderful uncle and a great brother. Not many can say they have eight sisters but you handled us all with ease. You had a zest for life my beloved brother and I will be forever grateful for the time I had with you," wrote Meagan Groff.

Misty Broadbent said he was "the most outgoing person you could ever meet."

The Neufeld family issued a statement through Interior Health, thanking everyone who expressed concern about their son.

"Spencer is recovering after undergoing surgery at Royal Inland Hospital. We are grateful that his injuries are non-life threatening. Spencer would like to thank the people who came to his rescue and saved his life after the accident, as well as the staff at Royal Inland Hospital for his continuing care," the Neufeld family said.

"Our thoughts especially go out to the families of the other people on the plane."

The Neufelds asked for privacy.

Several photos on Neufeld's Facebook and Instagram pages show him working as a pilot for Fort Langley Air.

Fort Langley Air noted in one of its posts on Facebook about a different flight that "Spencer Neufeld flew like a champ."

The Transportation Safety Board confirmed that the Cessna 180 that Neufeld was flying when it crashed near Lillooet was owned by Fort Langley Air.

The company's owner Scott MacIntosh said, in a statement, that there were two pilots on the plane and confirmed it was not a chartered flight.

"Our priority today is just to be there for the families that have been impacted by this tragedy," he said, in the statement.

MacIntosh would not provide any details about Neufeld or his experience with piloting float planes. He said Friday that because of the TSB investigation, he had been advised not to say anything more than what he provided in the statement.

The body of the Aldergrove man was recovered Thursday from the submerged plane.

Lillooet RCMP say shortly before 1 p.m., police were notified that a small float plane had crashed on Tyaughton Lake. Linteau said several 911 callers told authorities that bystanders were trying to rescue the plane occupants.

When police arrived, they confirmed that a 20-year-old male passenger had died. The pilot was flown to hospital with serious but not life-threatening injuries.

Linteau said the survivor escaped the wreckage on his own then was pulled from the water by boaters.

Lillooet RCMP, the B.C. Coroners Service and the Transportation Safety Board are investigating.

Linteau said it is too early to speculate on the cause of the crash.

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