Yellowknife company 'very distraught' over fatal helicopter crash
The death of a passenger in a weekend helicopter crash near Norman Wells, N.W.T., has rattled workers at the Yellowknife company that owned the aircraft.
Saturday's crash, which killed Tulita resident Alvin Yallee and injured two others, marked the first fatality for Great Slave Helicopters, a company official said.
"Obviously everyone's very distraught over the recent accident," operations manager John Buckland told CBC News late Monday.
"Most importantly, we're worried about our own pilot, who was injured and is now in Edmonton receiving care."
The helicopter's female pilot, who has not been identified, is reportedly in stable condition at an Edmonton hospital.
The company is offering counselling to its staff at this time, Buckland told CBC News late Monday.
The Sahtu Helicopters Hughes 500D aircraft, which belonged to a subsidiary of Great Slave Helicopters, was carrying Yallee and a male co-worker from the Kelly Lake mining exploration camp north of Norman Wells when it crashed near Doctor Lake around 9 a.m. MT Saturday.
The crash site is about 70 kilometres northwest of Norman Wells, an oil and gas town that is located about 700 kilometres northwest of Yellowknife.
RCMP confirmed that an injured co-worker pulled the pilot out of the burning wreckage, but he was not able to rescue Yallee because the fire became too intense.
Yallee's death left residents mourning in Tulita, an aboriginal hamlet of 500 located 73 kilometres south of Norman Wells.
His cousin, Sahtu MLA Norman Yakeleya, described Yallee as a go-getter who was always coming up with good ideas.
"He always thought about the old people and thought about something to give them in times like this, springtime: you know, geese, beaver or muskrat," Yakeleya said in an interview.
"He also talked very fondly of his boys, and [of] things that he wanted the best for people in Tulita and all people in the Sahtu."
Yallee was a former president of the Tulita Land and Resource Corp., which was formed out of the Sahtu land claim agreement. He was also the first former student to come forward and talk about sexual abuse he suffered at Grollier Hall, an Indian residential school in Inuvik.
Yakeleya said his cousin's death is the seventh death in Tulita in recent months.
The federal Transportation Safety Board is currently at the crash site, investigating the accident. On Monday, investigators were making plans to remove the wreckage.