Transport Canada has confirmed that a four-seater plane that crashed near Sioux Lookout, killing two wanted criminals and two pilots, was flying illegally at the time of the crash.

26-year-old Abhinav Handa of Richmond, British Columbia was confirmed to be the pilot of the downed Piper PA-28 by members of the OPP, after police released the names of the four men involved in the crash on April 30.

The plane’s wreckage was found early on the morning of April 30 between Ignace and Sioux Lookout after departing from Dryden on April 29, and was reported to be headed towards Marathon, Ontario.

Now, Spokesperson for Transport Canada, Hicham Ayoun, has confirmed that Handa and his private company, A&T Flights Inc, did not have a valid Air Operator Certificate at the time of the crash.

Under Canadian Aviation regulations, an individual holding a private pilot’s license can only be in command of a specific class of aircraft, and to carry passengers for hire or reward, an individual or company must apply for an Air Operator Certificate and an additional domestic license to do so.

Ayoun also confirmed that Transport Canada had received previous complaints about the pilot related to a December 2021 investigation into illegal air taxi services, but noted details of the investigation cannot be made public at this time.

The three other victims of the April 29 crash included 36-year-old Gene Karl Lahrkamp of Kincardine, Ontario who had a $100,000 reward out for his capture and was the #2 most wanted man in the country, 37-year-old Duncan Bailey of Kamloops, BC who was wanted on bail violations by the BC Prosecution Service and Ministry of the Attorney General, and 27-year-old pilot Hankun Hong of Richmond, BC.

Transport Canada and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada are continuing to investigate the incident, along with members of the OPP.