Two dead in airplane crash near small NWT community

APTN National News
-Two people are dead after an Air Tindi aircraft crashed on its way to a Chipewyan community east of Yellowknife Tuesday, the airline said.

The plane was carrying four people aboard, including three passengers and one pilot, the company said in a statement. Two of the people were killed in the crash and two survivors were found at the scene, Air Tindi said.

The Cessna 208B crashed several kilometres west of the First Nations community of Lutsel K’e.

The company said the aircraft as was flying to Lutsel K’e from Yellowknife. The company said in a statement that the plane departed Yellowknife at 11:03 a.m. and was scheduled to land at 11:45 a.m.

The company said two of the survivors had been taken to Stanton Territorial Hospital in Yellowknife.

“Our hearts ache for the families of the two individuals who have lost their lives in this tragic incident and our prayers are with the two injured survivors,” said Air Tindi president Chuck Parker.

Parker was at the hospital Tuesday evening.

The company did not reveal any details about the circumstances of the crash or release any of the identities of the people on the ill-fated flight.

Lutsel K’e band manager Ray Griffith said a search by air and water found the Air Tindi flight crashed on rocks.

“They did find it crashed on top of rocks,” said Griffith. “The country around here is quite rugged and it sounds as though it crashed on top of a rocky hill.”

Griffith said the aircraft was on a regularly scheduled flight to Lutsel K’e from Yellowknife when radio contact was lost.

RCMP said the aircraft had departed for Yellowknife from Lutsel K’e when it turned back and radio contact was lost.

An RCMP statement said the crash site had been secured by the Lutsel K’e detachment.

Griffith said two of the passengers, a man and a woman, were from the community, while the third passenger was an official with the territorial power utility.

The RCMP statement said that members of the territorial major crimes unit would be on the scene Wednesday along with investigators from the Transportation Safety Board.

Lutsel K’e is about 200 kilometres east of Yellowknife and the flight between the two communities usually takes about 45 minutes.

“It is very, very difficult. It is a small community, everyone is close to each other,” he said. “We are isolated; there are no roads (out). The only way in and out is by flying.”

Griffith said the weather is rough at this time of year until freeze up, with a lot of fog and clouds particularly over Great Slave Lake where flights to the community pass over.

Griffith said the aircraft was first reached by a search crew who arrived near the site on another Twin Otter equipped to land on water. The searchers hiked up to the site, he said.

The company sent two helicopters and a Twin Otter on the search and an RCMP boat with the community’s chief also went to the site.

The Royal Canadian Air Force also sent out a Hercules C-130, an official said.

Damien Healy, spokesperson for the Stanton Regional Health Authority in Yellowknife, said earlier in the day that the hospital was preparing to treat four injured people.

He could provide no more information.

Air Tindi, a Yellowknife-based airline, flies Dash 7 and Twin Otter, Cessna and Beechcraft aircraft.

They were the company chartered to fly Royal family members to a bush camp during their royal visit to Canada.

A Twin Otter operated by Arctic Sunwest crashed in Yellowknife’s Old Town neighbourhood late last month, killing the pilot and co-pilot and injuring seven people on board.

Air Tindi, a Yellowknife based subsidiary of Discovery Air, specialize in isolated communities and “off track” landings on water and on snow covered terrain with skis.

They fly regularly scheduled flights to Lutsel’Ke.

Among their major contracts, they were recently awarded the medevac contract for western Nunavut, and fly charters for the Diavik Diamond Mine in the NWT.

They began operations in 1988, and were purchased by Discovery Air in 2006.

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