Resolute crash team probes flight recorders
Arctic community mourns 12 people who died in weekend crash in Nunavut
Investigators at a lab in Ottawa were retrieving information Monday from flight recorders belonging to a Boeing 737-200 passenger plane that crashed on the weekend in Nunavut, killing 12 people.
They hope the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder, flown from the Arctic community of Resolute Bay on Sunday for analysis, will help them determine the cause of Saturday's crash of First Air Flight 6560.
Officials say it will be several days before they'll be able to analyze the information gathered in the final moments of the flight. Their final report on the crash could take more than a year.
All but three of the 15 people on board died when the aircraft slammed into a hill as the crew prepared to land after a flight from Yellowknife.
Officials with the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) are on the scene, working closely with RCMP forensics experts.
2 Resolute Bay victims survived earlier crash
Two men who died in on the Air First flight had survived a separate crash near Cambridge Bay only three years ago, and had been living with a fear of being killed while flying again.
First Air president Scott Bateman was flying in early Monday to see the crash site for himself.
The aircraft is reported to have broken into three sections as it hit the hillside. An airport worker said there was a low cloud ceiling at the time of the crash.
"You couldn't see nothing with the fog," said James McKinnon, who was there filling a truck with fuel when the crash occurred. "But when the fog lifted you could see the smoke and everything scattered all over the hillside and then the military got into action and they moved up there probably within 10 minutes."
First Air said the plane's last reported communication was at 12:40 p.m. CT, approximately eight kilometres from the airport, and that the plane went down 10 minutes later.
First Air spokesman Christopher Ferris on Sunday said "the cause of the accident is unknown."
In addition to the recorders, investigators will review the plane's maintenance records, weather conditions and interviews with witnesses to the crash and airport staff.
"Everybody's still in shock," said McKinnon, adding he had friends who died in the crash. "It's just unbelievable. Everybody is just really sad. Their hearts go out to all the people who have lost loved ones."
Aziz Kheraj, the owner of the South Camp Inn in Resolute and a former mayor of the community, had two granddaughters on the plane. Gabrielle Pelky, 7, survived with a broken leg and cuts to the head, but her six-year-old sister, Cheyenne Eckalook, died.
Iqaluit child who survived still in Ottawa hospital
Gabrielle is being treated for her injuries at Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario. Her uncle, Terry Audla, said her mother, grandmother and another uncle are with her in Ottawa.
First Air Flight 6560
Gabrielle Pelky (injured)
Nicole Williamson (injured)
Robin Wyllie (injured)
Anne Marie Chassie
"From the sounds of it, she's doing quite well. She wants to leave the hospital," Audla said. "They're fitting her with crutches and they'll see how well she does with those, and then they'll make that decision [about going home]."
The girls were making their way back from a trip to see their father in British Columbia and had planned to stop in Resolute before travelling home to Iqaluit.
A 48-year-old man who was on the First Air flight, identified by RCMP only as Robin Wyllie, is being treated at the Ottawa Hospital.
A third survivor, 23-year-old Nicole Williamson, was first taken to the hospital in Iqaluit before being transferred to Ottawa on Sunday night. The name of her hometown has not yet been released.
All three are in stable condition, according to the RCMP.
Those who died include the four crew members: Capt. Blair Rutherford, First Officer David Hare, Purser Ann Marie Chassie and Flight Attendant Ute Merritt. Rutherford was from Leduc, Alta., south of Edmonton. The other crew members were based in Yellowknife.
Aside from Cheyenne Eckalook, the passengers who died were identified by the RCMP as Steve Girouard, Lise Lamoureux, Raymond Pitre, Randolph Reid, Michael Rideout, Chesley Tibbo and Marty Bergmann. Bergmann was an acclaimed Arctic researcher who was headed to Resolute Bay to give Prime Minister Stephen Harper a tour of a new research facility. The father of four was director of Natural Resources Canada's Polar Continental Shelf Program.
It's believed six of the passengers who were killed worked for Kheraj at the South Camp Inn.
Prime Minister Harper will visit Resolute on Tuesday, where he will meet with community members and first responders involved in rescue and recovery efforts. He'll be joined by federal Health Minister and Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq.
Harper was supposed to spend a couple of nights in the community as part of his annual northern tour, starting Monday, but he has delayed and shortened the planned visit.
"Our thoughts and prayers remain with those affected by Saturday's tragic plane crash," Harper said in a statement. "Thanks to the Herculean efforts of first responders, including members of the Canadian Armed Forces, lives were saved that otherwise might have been lost."
A Canadian Forces team happened to be in the area on summer exercises to practise rescue and disaster response techniques. A military official said the training operation has been cancelled indefinitely.