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Red Lake plane crash leaves community with heavy hearts

Nov. 12, 2013, Red Lake, Ont. - The mayor of Red Lake says his town is devastated by the plane crash that killed five people there Sunday night.


November 12, 2013
By CBC News

Phil Vinet said Red Lake is a hub for air travel and, when something like this occurs, it affects the whole community.

 

"This isn't a very large community. There's 4,500 of us," he said "We all have heavy hearts today. Very heavy."

 

Vinet said he's seen aviation incidents in Red Lake before, but nothing of this magnitude.


Two people survived the crash of the Bearskin Airlines twin-engine turboprop, about 500 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay, just after 6:30 p.m. local time Sunday. The  plane crashed on approach to the Red Lake airport and burst into flames.

The two pilots were among those killed, said Ontario Provincial
Police Sgt. Rob McDonough at the provincial police communications centre
in Thunder Bay — a 25-year-old from Mississauga and a 34-year old
from Winnipeg. The three passengers killed include a 53-year-old woman,
a 53-year-old male, and a 64-year-old woman, all of whom hail from Red
Lake. Their bodies were located within the wreckage.


Provincial police issued a release early Monday saying the
names of the deceased would be released after their next of kin were
notified.


The survivors were identified as a 29-year-old man and a 50-year-old woman, both from Winnipeg.

 

"The one male was actually the one that called us to report the
crash. He was able to pull the woman out of the wreckage prior to it
becoming fully engulfed in flames," McDonough said.

The two were taken by ambulance to hospital. McDonough said they were
treated for non-life-threatening injuries. He noted the man was able to
walk to the ambulance, while the woman appeared to have suffered a back
injury.

Plane 'destroyed by flames'

The plane had taken off from Sioux Lookout, Ont., on a flight to Red
Lake, 270 kilometres north of Kenora, and about 100 kilometres east of
the Manitoba boundary.

 

McDonough said the 19-passenger aircraft knocked down some hydro lines during the crash.

 

"The plane was totally destroyed by the flames," he said. "Upon
impact, it burst into flames and then set bush around it on fire as
well."

 

A local fire crew quickly doused the flames in both the plane and the woods, he added.

 

There's no word yet on the cause of the crash, but McDonough said
Transportation Safety Board investigators from Winnipeg were expected to
arrive at the site Monday afternoon.

 

Once they arrive, investigators will examine "all aspects of the
aircraft," including the structure, controls, engines, propeller and
landing gear, to see if "any of it could be related to the accident that
happened," said TSB spokesman Peter Hildebrand.

 

There were light clouds and moderate winds out of the northwest
around the time of the crash, as well as some snow showers, "but not
anything severe in terms of this time of year," he said.

 

Terry Harapiak, owner of the Esso station in Red Lake, said
that right around the time of the crash, the weather turned ugly, with
flurries and strong winds.

Bearskin offers condolences

Bearskin Airlines is based in Sioux Lookout and has operated since 1963, employing 300 in Ontario and Manitoba.

Ron Hell, director of marketing and sales for Bearskin, said they are
still confirming details of the crash and expect to release more
information later.

 

"At this time our thoughts, and our prayers and our condolences go
out to all the families involved and we just ask everyone to also give
your thoughts and prayers to those involved," he said.

 

He added that all Bearskin flights will be operating as scheduled Monday. Bearskin's fleet of 16 Metro Fairchild planes serve 18 destinations in the two provinces.


Transport Minister Lisa Raitt expressed her condolences on Twitter.


"My thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by the
tragic air accident near Red Lake last evening. Thank you to
first responders," she wrote.

 

In May 1995, a Bearskin aircraft collided with a Piper Navajo near
the Sioux Lookout airport, killing all eight people aboard the two
planes.