Canada plane crash leaves unknown number dead in Northwest Territories


A small passenger plane carrying workers to Rio Tinto’s Diavik diamond mine in Canada’s Northwest Territories crashed Tuesday in the town of Fort Smith, killing at least some of those on board, according to authorities and the mining company. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police confirmed multiple fatalities in the crash, but it was unclear how many people had been on board the Jetstream aircraft, which can carry up to 19 people.

The jet belonged to regional carrier Northwestern Air and went down only about 500 yards from the end of the runway at Fort Smith Regional Airport, Canadian national broadcaster CBC reported, citing the local coroner.

“At this time, we can confirm there are fatalities, but we will not be providing any additional information pending next of kin notifications,” the coroner’s office in Yellowknife, which is leading the investigation into the deaths, told CBS News.

CBC quoted mining giant Rio Tinto as saying in a statement that it was cooperating with authorities and had offered to help with efforts to determine the cause of the crash.

“As a company, we are absolutely devastated by this news and offering our full support to our people and the community who are grieving today,” Rio Tinto CEO Jakob Stausholm was quoted as saying.

In response to the incident, the Fort Smith Health Center in the Northwest Territories said it had “activated its Mass Causality Protocol in response to the crash at approximately 8:50 in the morning.”

In a post on its Facebook page, the local Fort Smith administration asked residents to stay away from the area to allow emergency responders to do their work.

A representative of Northwest Air confirmed the crash to CBS News on Tuesday evening but said the airline could provide no further information.

Joint Rescue Coordination Center Trenton said the plane crashed shortly after takeoff.

“Royal Canadian Air Force, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and Canadian Rangers were all involved in the search and rescue operation,” the center said.

“The community is in shock,” CBC quoted Fort Smith deputy mayor Dianna Korol as saying. “Everybody has a little piece — or somebody that they know. It’s very devastating. The families are grieving and we just hope that everybody has the strength to carry on and get through this tragedy.”

In a separate incident on Monday, one of three helicopters running a heliskiing operation in British Colombia crashed, killing three people and seriously wounding four others, according to a statement from Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the skiing company.

“We are working closely with the RCMP and other authorities to support the investigation into the cause of the incident,” John Forrest, the head of the Northern Escape Heliskiing company said in a statement. “The guest who ski with us and the staff who work with as each season are part of our family.”

CBS News’ Lauren Fichten contributed to this report.



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