Plane flying ‘will you marry me’ banner crashes, killing the passenger and injuring the pilot

Fire crews douse flames of the wreckage (YouTube)
Fire crews douse flames of the wreckage (YouTube)

A marriage proposal ended in tragedy after a small plane towing a "will you marry me" banner crashed on an island near Montreal.

The passenger in the small, Cessna 172 aircraft was killed while the pilot survived. He remained in hospital recovering from his injuries.

The banner is believed to have fallen in the St-Lawrence River shortly before the plane went down in Park Dieppe, between Old Montreal and St Helen’s Island.

Laurel Scala told Canada’s CTV News that she saw the plane flying the banner shortly before it crashed about 6pm local time on Saturday.

"It seemed like the normal height that a plane like that would fly when it has a banner," Ms Scala told the outlet. "We struggled to read what the banner said... It said ‘Will you marry me."

The banner has not yet been recovered and Canada’s Transportation Safety Board has not released details of the deceased passenger.

The pilot was identified as Gian Piero Ciambella, owner of Publicite Aerogram. The company advertises itself as Canada’s leader in aerial advertising, offering banner towing and skywriting.

He had previously made a successful emergency landing in the middle of Montreal’s Parc Avenue after an engine failure in the same Cessna in 2006

"Mr Ciambella is a very experienced pilot," Paul Fréchette, a pilot and former investigator with the Transportation Safety Board, told CBC Canada.

The plane went down shortly after taking off from the St-Mathieu-de-Laprairie Airport at about 5.46pm local time, CTV News reports. A mayday call was sent about 15 minutes after takeoff before the signal went dead.

The wreckage is being sent to Ottawa for analysis as investigators begin the process of piecing together the cause of the crash. The Transportation Safety Board is looking to interview the pilot as he recovers.

“We could be looking at the engine, at the propeller at the aircraft control, it can be anything – fuel contamination,” Isabelle Langevin of the Transportation Safety Board told the outlet.

Video footage from the aftermath shows the crashed plan engulfed in flames before fire rescue crews working to douse the inferno.

Multiple reports said officials received information of engine trouble on the plane, with the crash site suggesting it touched down before bouncing and spinning to a rest.

Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante said her team was monitoring developments following the crash.

"My thoughts are with the family of the deceased," she wrote on Twitter.

It was unclear if the deceased passenger was connected to the marriage proposal.

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