N.W.T. coroner says 6 dead after Fort Smith plane crash

The N.W.T. coroner’s office says six people have died after a passenger plane crashed Tuesday morning near the town of Fort Smith, to the Alberta border.

According to the coroner, four people were passengers and two were crew on the Northwestern Air plane.

Global mining giant Rio Tinto has said a number of its staff were on the plane headed to the Diavik Diamond Mine, 300 km northeast of Yellowknife.

The Northwest Territories coroner’s office provided an update on the crash which occured just after take-off near Fort Smith on Tuesday.

The plane was headed to the Diavik Diamond Mine, some 300 km northeast of Yellowknife, the coroner’s office said in a written statement.

“There was one survivor who was taken to the Fort Smith Health Centre and then medevaced to Stanton Territorial Hospital in Yellowknife,” the coroner’s statement read. “The NWT Coroner Service is in the community and will be working with local resources to access the site and begin the recovery process.”

The plane crashed after takeoff near the banks of the Slave River, west of Fort Smith, which lies along the territorial boundary with Alberta.

Rescuers parachuted to the scene Tuesday. The Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash, which involved a British Aerospace Jetstream passenger plane

The town council offered help to community members who are grieving.

“We understand that you may not wish to be alone right now (and) that you may want to talk about it with others that are experiencing the same feelings of grief and trauma,” the council said in a written statement.

“There will be snacks, drinks, and friendly faces at the Community Recreation Centre as of 10 a.m. today, so feel free to drop by for a hot beverage and some conversation.”

The Fort Smith Health Centre in the Northwest Territories said it activated its mass casualty protocol. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada said the plane that crashed was a British Aerospace Jetstream registered to Northwestern Air Lease.

The airline’s website says it has two of the planes in its fleet that can carry 19 passengers.

There is no word on how many people were on the plane that crashed.

Joint Rescue Coordination Centre Trenton confirmed the military responded after a plane lost contact shortly after taking off near the town, about 740 kilometres south of Yellowknife near the Northwest Territories-Alberta boundary.

The Air Force, RCMP and Canadian Rangers were all involved in the search-and-rescue, said David Lavallee, a public affairs officer with Search and Rescue Region Trenton.

Three Air Force squadrons provided air support, while police and rangers searched the ground, he said.

Lavallee said a CC-130H Hercules aircraft travelled to the site from Calgary and a CC-130J Hercules was sent from Trenton. A Twin Otter aircraft was sent from Yellowknife.

“Canadian Rangers located the aircraft near the Slave River, and (search-and-rescue) … parachuted into the site,” said Lavallee.

Neither Lavallee nor police have said whether anyone was injured.

In a social media post, the town of Fort Smith asked residents to stay away from where it’s believed the plane crashed to allow for emergency responders to get through.

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