The passengers of the fatal float plane crash in Little Doctor Lake on Thursday were tourists from Alberta and Saskatchewan, according to the airplane’s owner Simpson Air.
Three people — two men and a woman — died. The female pilot and another female passenger aboard the plane survived and were uninjured.
The Simpson Air Cessna 206 went down at the well-known tourist destination 100 km west of Fort Simpson around 6:35 p.m. in the evening, stated a spokesperson from Transportation Safety Board of Canada.
The board was deploying a team of investigators from its Edmonton office, who are expected to reach the accident site on Saturday, and trying to organize logistics.
RCMP were also on scene, according to a news release.
The point of origination could not be confirmed by the board.
“Our thoughts are with the family involved,” the spokesperson said.
Staff in Edmonton have been “busy” the last several days, with this most recent incident being the second crash this week in the Dehcho.
A Cessna 206 operated by South Nahanni Airways crashed on take off Wednesday from Nahanni Butte. The pilot and three passengers sustained minor injuries. The company pointed to engine failure as the cause.
The two survivors from the Simpson Air crash were flown to Fort Simpson Health Centre late Thursday evening, confirmed Health and Social Services spokesperson Damien Healy in an e-mail to News/North.
Both survivors were assessed free of injuries by the physician and community health nurse at the Fort Simpson Health Centre, wrote Healy.
The community health nurse and addictions counsellor provided support to survivors overnight. Both patients were released from the Health Centre.
‘Huge, huge impact’
Fort Smith MLA Shane Thompson spoke with community residents and airline staff following the fatal crash.
“They were shocked. Very taken aback by this situation. It’s a huge loss whether the passengers were from Fort Simpson or else.
“(Simpson Air) treat their passengers like friends and family, and all of a sudden, they’ve lost three. It’s just a family loss to them,” said Thompson.
Personally, the crash was “just a big shock,” for the MLA.
“Huge, huge, impact on our community and our riding,” said Thompson.
Simpson Air is owned by well-known pilot Ted Grant and is based in Fort Simpson. He has owned the company since 1981, according to the company’s website.
In 2008, a pilot and two passengers, a mother and her young daughter, were uninjured after a Simpson Air plane crashed in Fort Simpson. The Cessna 206 aircraft was flying from Trout Lake to the airstrip in Fort Smith when it crashed.
Simpson Air was first contacted Friday but the person answering the phone declined to comment on the incident, directing all inquiries to RCMP. Another call was made to the company Saturday. The man on the phone declined to offer his name, request that he just be called “a spokesperson,” but he did confirm the passengers on the plane were tourists from Alberta and Saskatchewan out for a day of sightseeing in and around Nahanni National Park.
Simpson Air has two Cessna 206 aircraft, one of which is operated on floats during the summer before converting to wheels for fall and winter. They can seat four or five passengers and one pilot.
“At Simpson Air we operate a fleet of reliable and capable multi- and single-engine aircraft that are all maintained to the absolute highest safety standards,” states the company’s website. “Each aircraft is well suited to meet your particular air charter needs. Whether you require fast, comfortable personal or business travel, or have a large load of cargo to transport, our aircraft are perfect for the job. Operating on both wheels and floats and with off-strip capabilities, our highly trained and experienced pilots will get the job done safely and professionally.”
One package offered by Simpson Air that goes near Little Doctor Lake is called the Glacier Lake/Extended Virginia Falls Day Tour, a fly-in day tour: six hours, with three stops.
“This journey starts as the Virginia Falls tour, but continues further into the mountains,” according to the company’s website. “After experiencing the magnificence of Virginia Falls, you will fly up to Glacier Lake where you will see the magnificent Cirque of the Unclimbables, a group of several cirques with 9,000-foot peaks that drain through Fairy Meadow, an idyllic alpine garden.
“A brief stop at Glacier Lake allows you time to take in the spectacular view of Mount Harrison Smith – one of the highest mountains in the Ragged Range. Continuing the tour over Rabbit Kettle Lake, you will see the Tufa Mounds. A stop at Little Doctor Lake and the Nahanni Mountain Lodge to relax and enjoy the scenery completes the tour as you head back to Fort Simpson.”
Transportation Safety Board of Canada investigators will attempt to collect as much information related to the crash as possible, the board’s Chris Krepski’s told News/North.
“That means examining aircraft wreckage, identifying pieces of the aircraft that might go to our lab for analysis, interviewing witnesses, gathering information from the company regarding aircraft maintenance and pilot training, the weather at the time of the accident as well if there was any record of communication between air traffic control or any radar info from air traffic control,” said Krepski.
“Next step is to analyze that information and following that we’ll start writing our report.”
– with files from Brendan Burke and Dylan Short