Fatal Arctic Jet Crash Probed

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RESOLUTE BAY, Nunavut, Aug. 22 (UPI) — U.S. aviation crash experts are in Canada helping investigate a weekend charter jetliner crash that claimed a dozen lives, officials said Monday.

The National Transportation Safety Board said in a statement it had sent a team of investigators to the Canadian arctic to look into the crash of First Air Flight 6560. The NTSB staff will be aiding investigators from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.

The Boeing 737-200 went down during foggy and rainy conditions Saturday while en route from Yellowknife to Resolute Bay. Three people survived.

“At this time, the cause of the accident is unknown,” First Air spokesman Christopher Ferris told The Globe and Mail of Toronto.

The list of victims hadn’t been released but The Globe and Mail reported the dead included Martin Bergmann of Winnipeg, director of Natural Resources Canada’s Polar Continental Shelf Program, a businessman’s granddaughter and all four of the plane’s crew.

Another victim was Chesley Tibbo of Harbour Mille, Newfoundland, who was returning to Resolute after attending his sister’s funeral, the Toronto Star said.

First Air President Scott Bateman said Sunday the captain of the plane was from Edmonton while the crew members were based in the Northwest Territories capital. One was flight attendant Ann Marie Golding, the Star said.

Kheraj said he charted a flight every three weeks to bring food and passengers up to Resolute.

The plane had been chartered by hotel owner Aziz Kheraj, who called the situation “a bad time.”

“We lost quite a few people on that plane, so it’s pretty tough,” said Kheraj, who had two granddaughters on the plane, including one who died.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said the survivors were Kheraj’s 7-year-old granddaughter Gabrielle Eckalook, a 48-year-old man and a 23-year-old woman — all hospitalized in stable condition. Gabrielle’s 6-year-old sister Cheyenne was killed.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper delayed and shortened his planned visit to Resolute, and is to arrive Tuesday, the newspaper said.

Governor-General David Johnston and his wife had been in Resolute Bay Saturday to meet with Canadian military forces. They canceled some of their itinerary because of the crash.

The Star reported a man, Morgan Cox, was to have been aboard the doomed flight but back out at his wife’s insistence to be on hand for his son’s birthday party.

QMI Agency reported those who first arrived at the crash scene had hopes of finding survivors.

“I was really hoping to find somebody who was alive that we can save. You want to find somebody that you can help,” said Luke Sperber, a medical technician with the Canadian military.

“When we arrived on scene, the three [injured survivors] were already air-evac’ed. We medics assisted the doctor sweeping the crash site for survivors, checking casualties’ vital signs … seeing if there are any other casualties alive … . As we swept the wreckage for any possible survivors … we came across some casualties still in the wreckage.

“We did save three people … . To me, that was a success. They’re still alive because of the quick actions [of responders] up there.”

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