Flags are at half-mast at a Vancouver Island airport as people mourn the people killed in a fatal plane crash on Sunday.

A memorial at the Port Hardy Airport hangar will be held tonight for pilot Simon Lawrence, 36, a seasoned flyer who colleagues say knew the terrain around the crash well.

"He was really well-loved, his nickname was 'Smiley,' he got along with everybody," said Quentin Smith of Pacific Coastal Airlines, the company which owned the plane.

Pacific Coastal staff are struggling with Lawrence's loss, said Smith.

"This is a really tight-knit community and really a family group of people here and they're taking it really hard," he said.

Lawrence's aircraft, a Grumman Goose, crashed and burned early Sunday, strewing burnt fuselage about the trees. All but two passengers perished in the crash.

One of the survivors, Bob Pomponio, used his cellphone to text and call a friend, who relayed the information to rescue officials. In one text message, he said he could see a rescue plane flying overhead.

Pomponio has been released from hospital and is now recuperating with his family, relatives said. The other survivor has a broken pelvis and remains in Victoria General Hospital.

Survivor struggled with ailing cell phone

But Pomponio's brother-in-law, Martin Young, said Pomponio struggled with a failing cell phone as he tried to direct rescuers to the site.

He knew he had little battery power on his phone so he decided to use text messages, shutting off the phone between texting to conserve power.

Young says Pomponio would send out a text message every time a search plane flew over the area, and it took about nine hours before rescuers were able to use the data to find the crash site.

In between emergency messages, Pomponio got two text ads from Telus.

Transportation Safety Board investigators flew into the crash area yesterday, and viewing the devastation say it's amazing anyone survived.

The remains of the plane were removed from the hillside today and will be taken back to the TSB's lab in Richmond for analysis.

Until then, investigators say any speculation about the cause -- such as a stall or engine failure -- is just that, speculation.

"As in every accident there's probably several things that went wrong at once to cause this accident and for us to speculate...is out of line and inappropriate and insensitive as far as I'm concerned," said Smith.

With reports from CTV British Columbia's Stephen Smart, Jim Beatty, and with files from The Canadian Press