First Nations call for better airports on reserves
North Spirit Lake has been asking for plane approach sensors for more than a decade
Posted: Jan 19, 2012 9:27 AM ET
Last Updated: Jan 19, 2012 6:11 PM ET
The Chief of North Spirit Lake First Nation wants to know why it took a deadly plane crash last week to draw attention to the lack of navigational aids for planes landing in her northwestern Ontario community.
Four people died when the plane they were on slammed into the frozen lake Jan. 10, within sight of the runway.
With no road, visitors to North Spirit Lake have no choice but to arrive by air.
If they're nervous about flying over a crash site, Chief Rita Thompson is equally unnerved by a circling plane.
“You guys gave us a scare for circling so many times; we were just like … ‘land already’ … we were all apprehensive,” she said, in reference to a recent — and uneventful — plane landing.
Feeling a lot of angerSome wreckage from last week's plane crash at North Spirit Lake remains on the frozen ice. (Karen Pauls/CBC)
Since last week's crash, a road has been built through the bush to the place to where the fragments of the plane remain.
Donald Campbell's sister-in-law is among the dead. He rushed to the crash site that night, his mind a blur, when he saw the flames.
“It just scared me, I couldn't even think [with] the adrenalin just rushing,” he said. “[I was] trying to put the fire out and that was that.”
Thompson said the First Nation has been asking for airplane approach sensors for more than a decade.
“You feel a lot of anger and hurt when you lose a loved one and then, finally, all of a sudden, everyone is calling and all of a sudden, North Spirit Lake is on the map,” she said. “Before, no one knew we existed."
Waiting on wordNorth Spirit Lake Chief Rita Thompson, left, shown speaking with Grand Chief Stan Beardy, says no one knew her community existed until last week's plane crash. (Jody Porter/CBC)
But there's still no word on when her community's airport will be up to standard.
First Nations Grand Chief Stan Beardy is also calling for improvements at the North Spirit Lake airport, and airports on First Nations across Canada.
“We have people travelling every day out of necessity,” Beardy said.
“A lot can be done to improve the safety of air travel in the Far North. We have to get proper navigational gear in place, there has to be proper weather reporting available close to the communities, we have to make sure the condition[s] of aircraft travelling up North [are] monitored. My people's lives are as valuable as anybody's in Canada."
Investigators from the Transportation Safety Board visited the North Spirit Lake crash site and are compiling their report.
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