‘A very sad day:’ condolences for downed pilots

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While they were still missing there was hope that they would be found alive, but those hopes were dashed Thursday after RCMP issued a news release confirming the death of two pilots aboard an Air Tindi flight that vanished the previous day.

The King Air 200 plane lost contact with Air Tindi between 9 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. Wednesday morning as it was flying from Yellowknife to Whati, president Al Martin confirmed later that day.

The two pilots were the only people aboard the plane, said Martin, adding the company lost contact with the aircraft 24 to 32 kilometres outside Whati.

Following a search and rescue effort, which saw the Royal Canadian Air force deploy a Hercules aircraft to scan the land between Yellowknife and Whati, a “crash site believed to involve the previously reported missing aircraft,” was found, stated RCMP in a news release issued Thursday afternoon.

Martin told Yellowknifer Thursday the plane was found not far from where the signal was lost – some “20-odd miles out of Whati,” he said.

Cold temperatures and bad weather coincided with the plane’s disappearance Wednesday – and adverse conditions hampered the search efforts of Whati RCMP – but Martin said there is no indication “whatsoever” as to what caused the deadly crash.

“You really have no idea until you can see the crash site,” he said. “The whole investigation process will take some time.”

RCMP say they’re working alongside the NWT Coroner’s Office and the Transportation Safety Board following the fatal crash.

“The investigation remains on-going and out of respect for the families of those on board, no further information is being released at this time,” stated the news release.

News of the deaths spread quickly Thursday, with both prominent community and aviation figures reacting to the tragedy.

“This is a tragedy,” stated Yellowknife Centre MLA Julie Green in a Facebook post.

“My deepest condolences (to) the families of the pilots and the whole Air Tindi crew.

For Adam Bembridge, president of Acasta – a helicopter company based in Yellowknife – the search effort’s tragic end hit close to home.

“It’s a very, very sad day,” said Bembridge during an interview with Yellowknifer Thursday.

“The aviation community in Canada is fairly small, but … the aviation community in Yellowknife is very tight-knit and very respectful,” he said.

Bembridge, a longtime aviation entrepreneur, said he visited the Air Tindi crew following the news.

“They’re doing as well as anyone could in these tragic circumstances,” said Bembridge.

Bembridge is an Air Tindi customer himself and his grandchildren fly with the air service.

“We need to respect Air Tindi as a premier operator and they have a fantastic team,” he said.

“It’s a very sad day for everybody, including every man, woman and child in Yellowknife as much as the families and friends directly involved,” added Bembrige.

The next of kin for the two missing crew have been notified, according to Martin.

“We’re making sure they’re being looked after,” he said.

Martin, who oversees a workforce of 200 employees, said Thursday was a “very difficult day.”

Employees, he said, went hours with no new updates.

“It’s a small business, everyone’s very connected, everyone’s helping each other very much. We’re just stressing for people to take their time and process,” said Martin.

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