Four people died in a plane that crashed near North Spirit Lake First Nation. A lone survivor was taken to hospital for injuries.
The small Piper PA 31 Navajo aircraft was bound for the community on Jan. 10 from Winnipeg when it crashed on the lake at 10 a.m. approximately one kilometer from the community airport. When community members arrived on the scene, the plane was engulfed in flames.
They attempted to douse the flames with snow and by pumping water from a hole drilled in the ice, to no avail.
While the next-of-kin have been notified, officials have not released the names of the deceased.
The spouse of the survivor, who reportedly works for Aboriginal Strategies Inc. (ASI), a Winnipeg-based company that works with the community, said doctors told her he suffered fractured face and ankle and that his vital signs were good.
Elaine Keesick, director of education for the community, said one of the passengers was the daughter of one of the community’s schoolteachers.
Peter Hildebrand of the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) said the cause of the crash is unknown. He said a team of investigators arrived in the community the morning of Jan. 11. Another TSB spokesperson said that the survivor will be interviewed at a later date.
Keesick said the weather was poor at the time of the crash.
“You can barely see across the lake,” she said. “It was a white-out.”
She said a group of students were scheduled to fly out that morning, but the flight was cancelled due to the weather.
The community of more than 400 people is still reeling from the crash.
“Everyone is still in shock and in disbelief,” Keesick said.
Other First Nation leaders have offered their condolences to the community.
Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Stan Beardy said in a statement: “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the pilot, passengers and all the members of North Spirit Lake First Nation who are dealing with this sudden and very terrible tragedy.”
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo also issued a statement.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the leadership and citizens of North Spirit Lake First Nation, as well as our brothers and sisters across Treaty 9 and Treaty 5 territory impacted by this tragedy,” Atleo said.
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