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'We will never forget'
Crash victims remembered one year after accident in Resolute

Laura Busch
Northern News Services
Published Monday, Aug 20, 2012

One year ago today, an accident occurred that rocked the small hamlet of Resolute, the tight-knit Northern aviation community, and countless family members, friends and acquaintances of the 12 dead and three survivors.

When First Air Flight 6560 slammed into a hill 1.5 km short of the landing strip it was approaching outside the hamlet of 214 people, there were 15 souls on board.

Three passengers survived the crash - Gabrielle Pelky, Nicole Williamson and Robin Wyllie. However, the remaining eight passengers and all four First Air crew members died that day.

A small, private gathering is planned in Yellowknife for First Air employees and crew families. The company also plans a moment of silence at 11:42 a.m. Aug. 20 in honour of everyone on board the flight, First Air stated in a press release.

"We will never forget the events of that day and the lives and legacies of those who passed will remain in our thoughts forever," stated Kris Dolinki, president and CEO of First Air in a news release. "We are also thinking of the survivors and are grateful for their health."

Resolute is moving forward and dealing with the loss, said Quttiktuq MLA Ron Elliott, who represents Resolute, Grise Fiord and Arctic Bay in the legislative assembly of Nunavut. He added the hamlet is not doing any official event to commemorate the anniversary.

A small private gathering is planned at the South Camp Inn, whose owner lost one granddaughter in the crash while the other survived, said Elliott. A number of the deceased were staff who were travelling to the inn for work, added Elliott.

"Everyone was deeply saddened when the accident happened, but I think everyone is still mourning the loss and definitely moving on, dealing with the situation and pain," said Elliott.

Over the past year, those who knew the victims of the tragedy have dealt with their losses in their own private ways.

Sonya Golding told News/North in a written statement that she travelled in January on what she referred to as "the Footprints Tour" to South Africa, a place where her sister, flight attendant Ann Marie Chassie, loved to volunteer her time.

Golding and her aunt have also set up a trust to raise funds for a water purification system in the community Chassie visited.

Golding remembers her sister as a determined single mother who supported herself and her two children through her work with First Air, while also earning a bachelor of science in nursing.

"Even with all of Ann Marie's love and ambitions in aviation, medicine and charity, she had no greater love than the love she had for her children, Ashley and Bradley," wrote Golding.

Within sight of the crash site, approximately 700 military personnel, including roughly 30 Canadian Rangers, were at or near a fully-equipped camp that had been set up for Operation Nanook 2011.

Coincidentally, the camp had prepared for a simulated plane crash response that was planned for later in the week. This made for a much faster response time than would have been possible if emergency personnel had to travel from the hamlet, located roughly 10 km away, said Maj. Jeff Allen, commanding officer of the 1st Canadian Rangers patrol group.

Allen's group of roughly 30 Canadian Rangers included many who were from the area, he said.

In the initial moments it was unknown who was on board, so local rangers were assigned to tasks some distance from the wreckage, while some of the other rangers assisted the first responders.

"I think that, during the event itself, it's almost an automatic response - people's training kicks in," said Allen. "It's afterwards, after the event, after the survivors have been extracted, that people seem to think about how they responded and how things transpired."

Generally, the Transportation Safety Board can release its final report on a crash within 12 months of the incident. However, the final TSB report on First Air Flight 6560 is not expected to be released until sometime next year due to the complex nature of the technical review conducted on the Boeing 737-200 involved, said Brian MacDonald, the investigator in charge of the file.

So far, the TSB has released two updates on its investigation. The first was on the day following the crash. The second, released in January, disclosed that the flight crew attempted to abort the landing and initiate a go-around two seconds before impact.

Families continue to be given more regular updates, said MacDonald.

"One of the key cornerstones of the TSB is to make sure that the families who are involved with this tragic event are kept abreast as to the progress of the investigation," he said.

- with files from Jeanne Gagnon

Fact file

Flight 6560 occupants

Blair Rutherford, pilot, deceased

David Hare, co-pilot, deceased

Ann Marie Chassie, flight attendant, deceased

Ute Merritt, flight attendant, deceased

Marty Bergmann, deceased

Cheyenne Eckalook, deceased

Steve Girouard, deceased

Lise Lamoureux, deceased

Gabrielle Pelky, survivor

Raymond Pitre, deceased

Randolph Reid, deceased

Michael Rideout, deceased

Chesley Tibbo, deceased

Nicole Williamson, survivor

Robin Wyllie, survivor

Source: RCMP

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