Saturday, July 12, 2014

Shots fired at crop-duster spraying Manitoba field: Royal Canadian Mounted Police

It’s a high risk job that became even riskier for a crop-duster Wednesday.

A pilot was flying over a canola field, near Fortier, in the RM of Portage la Prairie on Wednesday, July 9.

While spraying the field with a fungicide, the pilot came under attack. He finished the job, landed and inspected the plane.

"He phoned me and said that, 'We have a problem. I've been shot,' and I said, 'That doesn't compute. We’re in the ag business. I got shot does not compute with us,'" said Cory Trumbla, one of the owners of Terraco, an agricultural supplier. He said he was furious when he got the call.

The bullet went through the bottom of the plane, and out the side near the tail, just near where the pilot was sitting.

Trumbla says it’s also lucky the bullet didn’t hit anything mechanical. He said he thinks the incident was deliberate, and adds it's not uncommon for people to get upset when crop-dusters spray fields.

"There's one thing about being upset. But to take a gun out and shoot at an operating pilot is a totally different situation,” he said.

RCMP carried out a search warrant at a nearby residence.

Luc Arnal, 51, from the RM of Portage la Prairie has been charged with discharging a firearm, mischief over $5000, pointing a firearm, unauthorized possession of a firearm and endangering an aircraft, said RCMP.

Trumbla says he's not sure the charges suffice. "I think the punishment has to fit the crime and I'm not to say what that should be, but the charges for damage to an aircraft and mischief are inappropriate. This has a serious consequence. Someone's life was put in danger and someone's decision in a split second could have taken someone's life,” he said.

Trumbla said he thinks the charges should be upgraded to attempted murder.

Tara Seel from the RCMP wouldn’t comment if that is a possibility.

"That would speak to motive which is still part of the investigation. That's not to say more charges might be laid. At this time, there's no evidence to back up charges of that nature,” said Seel.

The pilot wasn't injured in the incident and has since returned to work. The investigation is ongoing.

The plane is owned by a Minnedosa-based company called Ken Kane Aerial Spray. It declined a request from CTV Winnipeg for comment on Friday.

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