(Gabrielle Pelky, 7, survived a plane crash in Resolute Bay, Nunavut, Saturday, along with two other people. Her sister Cheyenne Eckalook, 6, was one of 12 crash deaths. Photo courtesy of Terry Audla)
APTN National News
OTTAWA-Ill-fated chartered First Air flight 6560 was following the normal flight path for landing at the Resolute Bay, Nunavut, airport when it crashed into a hill about two kilometres east of the runway, according to a senior official with the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.
Investigators with the federal agency were on Monday still trying to piece together exactly what caused the 737 aircraft to crash on Saturday afternoon, killing 12 of 15 people on board.
There were no problems with the aircraft before it left Yellowknife on its flight to Resolute Bay, said Mark Clitsome, director of air investigations with the TSB.
Clitsome said the aircraft followed the set flight path for landing on runway 35 at the Resolute Bay airport before it crashed.
He said there was fog in the area at the time and that other aircraft had taken off and landed at the airport that day. Clitsome said investigators were also trying to track down those pilots.
“We are tracking down those pilots that flew in before or after to get information from them as to what they may have known seen or heard,” he said.
Clitsome said investigators currently have more questions than answers about the crash. He said they are not even sure if the aircraft caught fire before or after impact.
Investigators are also planning to interview the survivors to get a better sense of what happened in the final moments before the crash.
“We normally get good information from witnesses and survivors,” said Clitsome.
The TSB currently has 13 investigators and officials at the crash site. Investigators also retrieved the aircraft’s cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder and sent it to the agency’s Ottawa lab for analysis.
The three survivors, seven year-old Gabrielle Pelky, a 48 year-old man and a 23 year-old woman have been flown to Ottawa for treatment. The woman was moved from the Iqaluit hospital to Ottawa Sunday night.
Pelky’s sister, six year-old Cheyenne Eckalook, died in the crash along with eleven other people, including four crew members.
Family said Pelky is expected to be released from hospital Tuesday. She suffered a broken wrist and a broken leg in the crash.
The two girls were on their way to be with their grandfather who runs a hotel in Resolute Bay.
The RCMP released the full passenger list Monday.
Clitsome said he believed investigators would get full access to the site later Monday, after the RCMP finished identifying the dead. They were only given partial access to retrieve the cockpit and flight data recorders.
Investigators also do not yet know if the pilots alerted air traffic controllers there were problems on the plane before it crashed.
Clitsome said military air traffic controllers likely had contact with the plane before it crashed because they were in the area as a result of a large planned military exercise called Operation Nanook.
The military’s presence and quick response has largely been credited for saving the three surviving passengers.