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Canadians killed in Nashville plane crash identified as Ontario couple and 3 children

Victor and Rimma Dotsenko pose in this undated photograph with their three children, David, Adam and Emma. (UMCA Rich Tree Academy/@umcaschool - image credit)
Victor and Rimma Dotsenko pose in this undated photograph with their three children, David, Adam and Emma. (UMCA Rich Tree Academy/@umcaschool - image credit)

An Ontario couple and their three children have been identified as the victims of a deadly plane crash in Nashville earlier this week.

Nashville police said the pilot was 43-year-old Victor Dotsenko from King Township, roughly 50 km north of Toronto. Dotsenko's wife, 39-year-old Rimma, and their three children, David, 12, Adam, 10, and Emma, 7, were also killed, police said.

King Township Mayor Steve Pellegrini posted a statement online expressing condolences to the family's relatives and friends.

"This is a heartbreaking and devastating loss for our tight-knit community," Pellegrini said.

The family was killed when their 1978 Piper single-engine plane crashed and burst into flames alongside a highway west of downtown Nashville around 7:40 p.m. ET Monday evening.

Pilot recorded saying he wouldn't make landing

Canada's civil aircraft registry shows the plane was registered to an Ontario numbered company last July. Victor and Rimma Dotsenko are listed in public records as the company's two directors.

In a recording of radio transmissions posted online, Victor Dotsenko tells air traffic controllers that his engine has shut down, he has overflown John C. Tune Airport and has circled around in an attempt to land.

A runway is cleared at the airport, but Dotsenko says the plane has already descended to 487 metres and that he's too far away and isn't going to make it.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada said it has assigned a representative to the U.S.-led investigation of the crash.

'A terrible, terrible tragedy'

The plane was based at the Brampton Flight Centre, which is owned and operated by the Brampton Flying Club, said its general manager, Allan Paige. He could not say whether the plane took off from there, however, as the airport is uncontrolled and does not have flight records.

Victor Dotsenko appears on a list of private pilot licence graduates at the Brampton Flight Centre in 2022.

Since last summer, flight history data suggests the plane had only been flown on short trips within Ontario, and once from the Niagara region to nearby Erie, Penn., and back.

Then, on Monday, the plane was flown from the Milton area to Nashville, with two stops in Pennsylvania and Kentucky. The fateful trip was by far the longest distance listed since the plane was registered to its Ontario owners.

Investigators look over a small plane crash alongside eastbound Interstate 40 at mile marker 202 on Tuesday, March 5, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn.
Investigators look over a small plane crash alongside eastbound Interstate 40 at mile marker 202 on Tuesday, March 5, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn.

Victor Dotsenko reported engine failure shortly before the single-engine plane crashed alongside Interstate 40 in Nashville on Monday evening. (George Walker IV/The Associated Press)

CBC News obtained the aircraft's flight history from the past year through the tracking website FlightAware and shared the data with former Transportation Safety Board of Canada investigator Larry Vance.

"It certainly seems like (the pilot) would be at the low end of the experience scale to undertake a flight like this, especially at night and over that long of a distance," Vance said, referring to the trip to Nashville.

"When you have an engine failure on a single-engine airplane at night and you're gliding toward the ground," Vance said, "that's about as big a challenge as you can have, as a pilot."

Tony Starcevic, a fellow pilot who spoke to CBC News outside the Brampton Flying Club this week, said he knew Dotsenko and was thinking of him and his family.

"It's a terrible, terrible tragedy. We're all deeply affected by it," he said.

"When this type of thing happens, it affects all of us and we all question our own safety. We're all going to go brush up on our emergency procedures."

Meanwhile, the private school that the Dotsenko children attended posted a statement online expressing "profound sadness and grief" as it mourns their deaths.

UMCA Rich Tree Academy said the family was part of the school community for many years.

The school says David, Adam and Emma "lit up" the hallways and had "such a positive energy and attitude" toward friends and teachers.