A survivor of the fatal plane crash near Vancouver's airport Thursday says she sent her children what she believed would be her last message of love before the aircraft went down.

Carolyn Cross was one of nine people onboard the Beechcraft King Air 100 when it smashed into Russ Baker Way in Richmond, colliding with a car before bursting into flames.

Speaking from her hospital bed, she told CTV News that the first signal something was wrong came when the pilot made an announcement about an oil leak.

"I knew we were in trouble, not because of the message, but because his hand was shaking uncontrollably," she said.

She decided to take out her phone and send a text message to her three children -- "something that they would remember me by, that I could have peace that I had said my goodbyes," she said.

Cross said she was certain death was imminent.

"As I was descending, I was hoping for a signal so that those would go to the children," she said.

As the plane hit the pavement, she looked out her window and saw the flames. The smell of gasoline was everywhere, and she couldn't move her legs.

But when she saw another passenger opening the exit door, Cross gathered up her last ounce of strength and made it as far as the opening. Just when she was about to give up, she saw a group of witnesses to the crash who are now being hailed as heroes.

"Four extraordinary Canadians risked their lives to approach a burning fuselage and to save our lives and to take me to safety," she said.

She watched as the group of everyday people went back to save the other passengers, some of whom were warning them to stay away because of the risk of an explosion.

Cross and the other survivors of the crash that killed pilot Luc Fortin are reaching out to the people who saved their lives and offering their heartfelt gratitude.

"I really wanted people to know what extraordinary people were at that site and saved our lives -- they were true heroes," Cross said.

All seven passengers and both crew members of the small plane were taken to hospital after the crash.

Fortin, 44, died overnight while the second crew member sustained burns to 80 per cent of his body and remains in critical condition, CTV News has learned.

Survivors ‘feel very, very lucky'

Among the injured passengers were New Westminster resident Bev Rushworth's daughter Lorelei Sobolik and son-in-law Cameron.

"I was with them all evening," Rushworth told CTV News Friday morning. "They both have back injuries, broken bones in their back. Cam will be operated on today, early this morning."

Lorelei suffered a number of other injuries, including a collapsed lung, but Rushworth said both she and her husband "feel very, very lucky" to have survived.

"My daughter, even though she was in a great deal of pain, she was so thankful to some of the people who helped them get out of the plane wreck."

City of Richmond spokesman Ted Townsend also gave thanks to the witnesses who rushed to the scene while first responders were en route.

"We're very appreciative of the people that came to the aid of passengers… it made a big difference and it's a miracle that this wasn't a much worse tragedy."

A number of motorists pulled over, and a few even grabbed fire extinguishers from their vehicles and put them to use, Townsend said. First responders arrived just minutes later to take over.

Vancouver Coastal Health confirmed Friday morning that two patients remain in critical condition, four are in serious condition and two were discharged overnight.

Mounties have not confirmed whether the occupants of the car that was struck by the aircraft were injured.

The plane, which was bound for Kelowna, is operated by Northern Thunderbird Air, based in Prince George, B.C. The craft made it as far as Maple Ridge when problems arose.

The Vancouver Airport Authority says the pilot requested to return to YVR at 4:12 p.m., just over half an hour after takeoff.

Steve Smith, from Richmond, was driving home from his daughter's volleyball game when he saw black smoke rising from the crash site.

"By the time I parked my car, there was a massive jam-up of cars. I saw people being tended to at the side of the road," he said in an interview.

Within moments he watched fire trucks scream into the area, along with airport authority vehicles.

"I was thinking, those guys are heroes for helping them out. You must go into auto-mode. You get a knot from your stomach thinking people are hurt," he said.

"It was a very heartening response."

Bill Yearwood, with the Transportation Safety Board, said five investigators attended the crash site Thursday evening. The wreckage has been removed, and a joint investigation is underway by the RCMP and TSB.

If you have video of the crash or aftermath to share, contact bcassign@ctv.ca

With files from The Canadian Press