North

TSB begins investigation into fatal plane crash near Mayo

Investigators with the Transportation Safety Board have begun their investigation into a Yukon plane crash that killed two people, but said it will likely be months before they have answers as to its cause.

Wreckage currently being recovered and will be sent south for further investigation

A Cessna Grand Caravan. An Alkan Air C208 Caravan crashed into a mountain earlier this month, killing both people on board. The Transportation Safety Board says the plane was destroyed. (Alkan Air)

Investigators with the Transportation Safety Board have begun their investigation into a Yukon plane crash that killed two people, but said it will likely be months before they have answers as to its cause.

The plane, a Cessna 208 Caravan operated by Alkan Air, was reported missing Aug. 6 after leaving the Rau airstrip, located on the Rackla gold project. The plane was en route to Mayo, a community of roughly 200 people about 320 kilometres north of Whitehorse. 

A flyover located the crashed plane on the side of a mountain near Mayo Lake. The crash claimed the lives of both people on board — pilot Shawn Thomas Kitchen, 24, and passenger Julia Lane, 33.

Jon Lee, the Transportation Safety Board's manager of regional operations for Western Canada, said investigators have been to the site of the crash, arriving by helicopter to take photos and measurements.

"It was difficult," he said, regarding reaching the site, adding investigators had to work their way up a steep slope to the crash. "It presented some challenges. But they were able to get their work done fairly effectively."

The challenge, of course, with any operation in northern Canada, is the lack of weather stations and weather data.- Jon Lee, Transportation Safety Board

The investigators were also able to recover some instruments that track the aircraft's position, such as GPS equipment. Those instruments were damaged in the crash but have been sent to an engineering laboratory in Ottawa in hopes of recovering the information on them, Lee said.

The rest of the aircraft is currently being recovered by an insurance company and will be sent to a southern location — likely Edmonton, Lee said — where investigators can continue their examination.

Lee was not able to give any detail about initial takeaways from the investigation, except to say the crash was "not survivable" and that the aircraft was "destroyed."

Pilot Shawn Thomas Kitchen, 24, and passenger Julia Lane, 33, died in the crash. (Facebook)

Answers could take months

The next steps in the investigation, Lee said, are "all about data collection."

"We collect a lot of information about the operation [Alkan Air], we collect as much information as we can about the aircraft," he said. "We get information about the pilot: training, background, experience."

"And then it's basically a process of elimination, where we, upon examining that factual information, want to see if it's non-contributory to the occurrence. Then we eliminate it."

Investigators have already interviewed first responders to the crash, Lee said, and are now looking to collect weather data for the area. However, its location has made that process difficult.

"It's not an instantaneous process ... The challenge, of course, with any operation in northern Canada, is the lack of weather stations and weather data."

It will take time for investigators to begin making a determination. Lee said "it'll be months" before all the data is collected and sifted through.

"Each investigation is different," he said. "[Any] issues that start to emerge, we don't know at this time. So it's hard to nail down a time."

With files from Elyn Jones

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