By Brian Eneas, paNOW
There was high praise for community members and agencies who responded quickly to a plane crash in Fond du Lac Wednesday night.
The ATR 42 turboprop plane crashed within one kilometre of the Fond du Lac airport just moments after taking off. Twenty-five people were on board the West Wind Aviation flight bound for Stony Rapids. First responders and community members were on scene within 15 minutes of the impact. No one was killed, but at least five people were airlifted to hospitals for treatment of serious injuries.
Officials with the Transportation Safety Board are investigating the cause of the crash.
At a news conference Thursday Prince Albert Grand Council’s (PAGC) Vice Chief Joseph Tsannie said the people in northern Saskatchewan are resilient, and the true heroes came from the community of Fond du Lac.
“The people that were out there on the scene, they are the heroes, responding quickly to an accident like this, we want to thank them for what they’ve done,” Tsannie said.
Members of the Fond du Lac fire department were praised for their efforts by the vice chief, who said their skills and the equipment they used were an important aspect of the rescue efforts. He noted that the fire fighters had to use the Jaws of Life to get to one passenger who was stuck inside the wreckage of the plane.
Tsannie also said the pilots needed to be acknowledged for their skills and quick thinking. He said if they hadn’t had the foresight to turn off the power to the plane prior to impact, the situation today could be much different.
The vice chief thanked the RCMP, the Canadian Rangers, the Royal Canadian Air Force and all other first responders and community members who assisted in the rescue efforts.
The Grand Council is in the process of getting health and mental health support to the community of Fond du Lac. An emergency crisis response team will also be deployed to the community to offer support.
“This was an opportunity for the community to come together,” Fond du Lac community consultant Don Deranger said. “Everybody was involved and that’s how the community came forward.”
Deranger said it will take three to four days for any additional information regarding the crash to be released. Any recommendations which are made in the reports will be followed up on by band officials.
Crash affects entire north; PAGC Vice Chief Chris Jobb
PAGC Vice Chief Chris Jobb said the plane crash created a ripple effect which will be felt through the entire North.
“This open doors for a lot of us in the north, especially Fond du Lac, having no road,” Jobb said.
Fond du Lac Chief Louie Mercredi agreed the incident adds extra credibility to calls for an all-season road to Fond du Lac. During the summer months, the community is only accessible by air. Over the winter months, there is ice road access however many people still fly in and out of the settlement.
He also said the community has one of the shortest runways in northern Saskatchewan and with the size of planes growing and the number of people who are flying in and out, upgrades are needed.
“We as leaders need to sit down with the province regarding all-season roads and upgrades to our runways,” Mercredi said.
Jobb said the road conditions in and around Stony Rapids and Black Lake need to be considered. The all-season road situation for residents of Wollaston Lake and the Hatchet Lake band also need to be addressed.