Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Two people die in dual plane crashes

SNOW LAKE, Man.—Rescue crews on snowmobiles had to beat a path through thick bush in northern Manitoba yesterday to reach the survivors of one of two fatal plane crashes which took place on the Prairies over the weekend.
Low cloud cover meant a rescue aircraft was unable to reach seven people who were injured after a plane en route to Winnipeg from Snow Lake, Man. went down just after 10 a.m. local time.

The crash that killed one person came after a separate aircraft went down in northern Alberta on Saturday evening, killing the 52-year-old pilot, who was the plane’s sole occupant.
In yesterday’s incident, authorities said a Cessna 208 Caravan went down in a remote area about 10 km from the town of Snow Lake, which is some 700 km north of Winnipeg.
Police said the pilot, a 40-year-old man from Snow Lake, was killed and that seven others were injured, some seriously.
RCMP spokeswoman Sgt. Line Karpish said a passenger on the plane used a cellphone to call 9-1-1 and alert authorities about the crash.
A Canadian Forces Hercules aircraft was dispatched and rescuers on board had parachutes they could use to reach the survivors, but Karpish said crews weren’t able to jump because the cloud ceiling was so low.
That meant the RCMP, volunteer firefighters, wildlife officers, and other locals had to use snowmobiles to reach the scene.
“Just to get to the plane crash, basically it took over an hour-and-a-half to cover the six miles,” noted Karpish, adding the area is covered in thick bush.
“I’m told that they ended up having to push a trail.
“They did end up accessing [the site] using snowmobiles and rescue sleighs to get to them safety,” she added.
The injured were brought to a small health centre in Snow Lake, but poor visibility at the time meant that medevac flights that would have carried them to larger hospitals couldn’t land.
Snow Lake Mayor Clarence Fisher said yesterday afternoon that while the sky appeared to be clearing, fast-approaching darkness likely would have made it difficult for planes to land.
A decision was made to transport the injured by ground ambulance to Flin Flon, The Pas, or Thompson, which all were between two and three hours away.
“We have a local hospital here but people with serious injuries would need to be medevaced out,” Fisher noted.
There’s been no word on the conditions of the injured.
Karpish said many people in the community chipped in to help with the rescue.
“In the north, it’s not unusual when something happens like this, it hits home very closely,” she noted.
“At the end of the day, everybody just joins in and helps out and gets these people to safety.”
Meanwhile, authorities said in Saturday’s crash in northern Alberta, the single-engine turboprop entered an area between La Crete and High Level, where visibility was reduced to less that 100 metres due to low cloud cover and heavy fog.
RCMP said an emergency beacon was detected by the Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Trenton, Ont., which notified police.
Authorities found the plane a few kilometres northeast of the La Crete airport, about 670 km north of Edmonton.
The Transportation Safety Board will be investigating both crashes.

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