Resolute Bay, NT Passenger Jet Crash, Aug 2011
PLANE CRASH NEAR RESOLUTE BAY KILLS 12, INJURES THREE.
Resolute Bay, Northwest Territory (PN) - Twelve people are dead and two adults and a child are injured after First Air Flight 6560 crashed
near Resolute Bay in the Arctic on Saturday - very close to where hundreds of Canadian military personnel were gathered for a Nunavut training exercise.
A rescue operation was underway Saturday evening with RCMP officers and Canadian Forces members on the ground, and helicopters on site, said Const. Angelique Dignard, who works with the RCMP in Nunavut.
There were 11 passengers and four crew members onboard the chartered Boeing 737, which was travelling from Yellowknife to Resolute Bay, Dignard said.
The three injured passengers were being transported to the Qikiqtani General Hospital in Iqaluit for treatment on Saturday evening, RCMP said. One of the adults is in critical condition.
RCMP officials have located two black boxes at the crash site, which will be used to identify the cause of the accident. Two forensic identification teams are en route to Resolute Bay, Dignard confirmed.
Four officers will be "dedicated to the identification of the deceased," while two others will be assigned to investigate the accident.
"These officers are all experienced, some have dealt with the Swiss Air crash and the tsunami crisis," Dignard said in a news release. A coroner will also be assigned to the crash site, she said.
Local RCMP received a call of a downed plane near Resolute Bay, a hamlet of a little more than 200 people, shortly after 1:30 p.m. local time Saturday.
The passenger list was not immediately available.
First Air, a company that operates flights to northern communities, is based in the Ottawa area. A statement from the company said that the last communications with the flight were at 12:40 local time, approximately eight kilometers from Resolute Bay airport. The plane went down about 10 minutes later, the statement read.
Hundreds of military personnel are in the area to take part in Operation Nanook, the military's annual northern training exercise.
Because of their proximity to the crash, some of those personnel were the first to respond to the crash, said Department of National Defense spokeswoman Dominique Verdon.
"We stopped all our activities on Operation Nanook ... We were the first to respond," she said.
Lt. Cmdr. Albert Wong was taking part in the military exercise when he saw the plane go down "within eyesight" of the runway. "We had some expertise there so we responded right away," he said.
The flight that crashed was not connected to the drills being conducted by the military.
The Canadian Forces immediately sent fire trucks and first responders, and are still on site, Wong said. They expect to hand the rescue effort over to the RCMP.
Environment Canada forecasts indicate that there was fog in the vicinity of the Resolute Bay airport around the time of the crash. Ron Elliott, the provincial representative for Quttiktuq, which includes Resolute Bay, said the flight was regularly booked by a local businessman to bring in supplies and staff.
The company added that the Transportation Safety Board has been notified of the incident. The TSB issued a news release saying investigators are en route to Resolute Bay. Transport Canada has also appointed a "minister's observer" to oversee the investigation.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper had been scheduled to travel to Resolute Bay on Monday for what has become an annual trip to the High Arctic.
"I am deeply saddened by news of this tragic plane crash near Resolute Bay," Harper said in a release Saturday evening. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of those passengers who lost their lives in this tragedy. We also wish a speedy recovery to those who were injured."
Gov. Gen. David Johnston is currently on a tour of Nunavut.
"Earlier today, I had the opportunity to visit many of the Operation Nanook military units," he said in a news release on Saturday evening. "I was able to witness first hand the professionalism and dedication of our Canadian Forces and civilian organizations as they responded quickly and effectively to this catastrophe."
First Air flies four Boeing 737-200 airliners that are capable of landing on gravel runways like the one at Resolute Bay's airport. The planes are fitted to fly both cargo and passengers.
According to Transport Canada records, the Boeing 737-200 that crashed was built in 1975.
The plane has been involved in several minor incidents over the course of its life, according to preliminary information recorded by Transport Canada's civil aviation reporting system.
On Feb. 18 of this year, pilots aborted a takeoff from Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport after a low-power warning on one of the plane's engines.
On Nov. 11, 2010, the plane was en route from Norman Wells, N.W.T., to Inuvik, N.W.T., when pilots noticed an engine overheat warning.
Pilots shut down the engine and declared an emergency before completing a single-engine landing into Inuvik.
According to the airline's website, First Air is owned by the 9,000 Inuit of northern Quebec. The airline, which was founded in 1946 under the name Bradley Air Services, provides scheduled air service to 30 communities in the Arctic, with southern gateways in Ottawa, Edmonton, Montreal and Winnipeg.
National Post Canada 2011-08-20
List of Casualties:
BLAIR RUTHERFORD, 48, Pilot.
DAVID HARE, 35, First Officer.
ANN MARIE CHASSIE, 42, Flight Attendant.
UTE MERRITT, 55, Flight Attendant.
CHEYENNE ECKALOOK, 6 years old; sister of GABRIELLE PELKY.
RAYMOND PITRE, 39.
MICHAEL RIDEOUT, 65.
CHES TIBBO, 49.
List of Injured:
NICOLE WILLIAMSON, 23.
GABRIELLE PELKY, 7 years old.