Second Newfoundlander reported dead in Nunavut plane crash

The Telegram and The Canadian Press
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

Cause of Arctic jet crash unknown: airline

A member of the Canadian Forces watches a helicopter in front of a plane that crashed in the hills in Resolute Bay, Nunavut. — Photo by Dept. of National Defence/Master Cpl. Randy Burnside

While reports by local media on Saturday’s plane crash in Resolute Bay have, so far, been focused on the death of a 49-year-old man from Harbour Mille, The Telegram has learned a second individual from this province was also killed in the crash.

The widow of the second man — a 65-year-old man from Mount Pearl — has spoken with The Telegram, saying her husband was a family man, a proud grandfather and a skilled electrician who was well known for his work in and around Resolute Bay.

“This was his last trip. He was retiring the end of the year,” she said.

It was also his third plane crash.

Meanwhile, Morgan Cox of Fortune, a co-worker who has spent 15 years flying in and out of Resolute Bay with both men doing construction work, also spoke with The Telegram. He had been asked to fly in again on Saturday.

“I probably would have been on that flight and I lost a couple of dear friends,” he said, clearing his throat, considering the events of the past weekend and the plane crash that has claimed 12 lives.

Cox delayed his trip in order to be home for his son’s 12th birthday.

“I was supposed to fly out tomorrow. I’ve got that cancelled now and I’m going to be home for a couple more weeks — just to get over this,” he said.

He worked with, became good friends with, the two men from Newfoundland and Labrador who died in Saturdays event.

The Telegram is not releasing any names of the deceased until confirmation of who was on board the flight is received from the RCMP.

Cox said he was in a crash with at least one of the men in 2008. He returned to work three months after that incident.

He said he decided to return to work because the pay is good and his employers are good people. “And the people are good people,” he said.

He also said he will be flying into Resolute Bay again, given some time. 

UPDATED Canadian Press story:

Pain of First Air jet crash in High Arctic spreads from north to south

THE CANADIAN PRESS

RESOLUTE BAY, Nunavut — One was a six-year-old granddaughter. One was returning to his Arctic job from his sister’s Newfoundland funeral.

One was the Winnipeg-based director of one of Canada’s most important arctic research facilities. Others were flight crew based in Yellowknife and Edmonton.

As the identities of the victims in Saturday’s Arctic plane crash trickled out Sunday, the pain of the tragedy spread from the remote hamlet of Resolute where the jet went down, across the North and to the entire nation.

“It’s a bad time,” said Aziz Kheraj, a local hotel owner and businessman who chartered the First Air 737 that crashed into a small hillside near the tiny community’s airstrip, killing 12 and injuring three.

Kheraj had two granddaughters on the plane. One was among the dead, the other was flown to Ottawa General Hospital.

“We lost quite a few people on that plane, so it’s pretty tough,” Kheraj said. “We lost six staff.”

Passenger Ches Tibbo, a carpenter from Harbour Mille, N.L., had been in a previous Arctic plane crash in 2008 and had been afraid to fly ever since.

“It has been totally devastating for this community,” said Pam Pardy Ghent, 41, Tibbo’s next-door neighbour.

Also killed was Martin Bergmann, the Winnipeg-based director of Canada’s Polar Continental Shelf Project in Resolute, well-respected in Arctic science circles for his tireless advocacy of northern research.

While the RCMP have not officially identified any of the dead, they do say next of kin have been notified.

The impact of the fiery crash isn’t limited to the community in which it occurred, said Nunavut Premier Eva Aariak.

“We have 25 communities in Nunavut and we always feel the pain and loss of those who perished as if they were part of our community,” she said. “We have such a connectedness in all of our communities, so our hearts and thoughts go out to all those affected throughout and especially those in Resolute.”

All four of the plane’s crew are among the dead, and First Air officials struggled with their emotions as they answered questions Sunday.

“This accident is a tremendous tragedy for us all, throughout the entire North,” said CEO Scott Bateman in Yellowknife. “Our First Air family extends across the entire Canadian North and we’re well aware that this tragic event touches the entire region and we all grieve together at this difficult time.”

First Air has sent counsellors to provide support in Resolute, Yellowknife and other main stations in the airline’s network. The Nunavut government has also sent counsellors to Resolute, as well as to other communities where the victims had family.

“There are many other relatives that are living outside of Resolute that are closely connected to the people involved in that tragedy,” said Aariak.  “Mental health service and counselling service is very, very important for us to deploy in situations like this.”

The cause of the accident remains unknown. Transportation Safety Board inspectors were on the site Sunday.

Hamlet residents and soldiers from nearby military exercises rushed to the scene of the crash Saturday afternoon in a desperate effort to pull survivors from the flaming wreckage.

Witnesses described how wreckage was strewn across a hill near the airport runway. One said the plane was broken into three pieces.

RCMP Cst. Angelique Dignard said two of the three survivors  — Kheraj’s seven-year-old granddaughter and a 48-year-old man — have been sent to hospital in Ottawa.

The third survivor, a 23-year-old woman, remains in a hospital in the territorial capital of Iqaluit. Dignard said all three are in stable condition, but would not comment on the nature of their injuries.

The plane was a chartered flight, number 6560, travelling from Yellowknife to Resolute. Kheraj said the run was a regular part of his business.

“We charter this flight every three weeks to bring our food and passengers up. We’ve done that every three weeks for the last six months.”

The military was already in the area as part of an operational exercise  — Operation Nanook. The 700 personnel on the ground for the operation were well positioned to help with the rescue.

The safety board investigators were already in Resolute, scheduled to participate in the military exercise. One of the scenarios planned next week was a mock plane crash.

RCMP said they had recovered two black boxes from the crash site and that they were sending six forensic identification officers to Resolute. Four of those officers will identify the deceased while the remaining two will be dedicated to the accident investigation.

Witnesses have said there was thick fog in the area Saturday. An airport worker, who wouldn’t give his name, said there was a low cloud ceiling at the time of the crash. It lifted about 10 minutes afterward.

— By Bob Weber in Edmonton

 

•••

(Earlier article)

The Telegram has confirmed that at least one Newfoundlander died in a devastating plane crash in Nunavut on Saturday.

According to residents of the small community of Harbour Mille, a 49-year-old man from their community is among the dead.

The RCMP are not yet releasing the names of the 12 people who died in the crash in Resolute Bay but Pamela Pardy Ghent, a neighbour of the family involved, confirmed the man’s identity. The Telegram is not releasing the man’s name until it is confirmed by the RCMP.

The news is hitting the small, tight-knit, community hard, said Pardy Ghent.

“You deal with a death in communities like this ... you pull together, you support one another, but this particular case is so tragic,” she said.

 

Victim had survived 2008 crash

According to Pardy Ghent the man had recently returned home to attend the funeral of his sister. He had also been a survivor of a previous plane crash in 2008 and had only recently returned to work after recovering from that incident. Saturday was also his 49th birthday.

 She described the man as a helpful neighbour, kind and “a really good fella.”

But while one Newfoundland family  is mourning a loss another is counting its lucky stars.

In an interview with the National Post Morgan Cox from Fortune said he has worked construction for 15 years in Resolute Bay.

Cox had been scheduled to return to the Northern hamlet on the Saturday flight, but he decided to stay another week at home in order to attend his son’s birthday party.

“If it wasn’t for that I probably would have gone,” he said.

His brother Wayne was on the tarmac waiting to pick up workers when the crash occurred.

Although the fog was too thick

to see anything, he — along with most of the town’s 200 residents — heard the echoes of a massive explosion.

Meanwhile, the company that owns the plane said it doesn’t know why the jet went down.

“At this time, the cause of the accident is unknown,” said First Air spokesman Christopher Ferris, his voice near breaking.

“Our thoughts and focus are with the families and friends of the passengers and crew and the community.”

 

Crew killed

All four of the plane’s crew are among the dead.

Hamlet residents and soldiers from nearby military exercises rushed to the scene of the crash Saturday afternoon in a desperate effort to pull survivors from the flaming wreckage.

Witnesses described how wreckage was strewn across a hill near the airport runway.

One said the plane was broken into three pieces.

Aziz Kheraj, a local hotel owner and businessman who lost friends and family in the crash, said the site remained cordoned off Sunday as the investigation continued.

“They haven’t moved anybody until the coroner shows up. They’ve got everybody covered on the crash site. We’ll wait until we can go in and do what has to be done.”

Ferris said the airline is fully co-operating with the Transportation Safety Board, which is on the scene and leading the investigation.

He said counsellors have been deployed to provide support in Resolute, Yellowknife and other main stations in the airline’s network.

RCMP Const. Angelique Dignard said two of the three survivors  — a seven-year-old girl and a 48-year-old man — have been sent to Ottawa General Hospital.

The third survivor, a 23-year-old woman, remains in a hospital in the territorial capital of Iqaluit. Dignard said all three are in stable condition, but would not comment on the nature of their injuries.

The plane was a chartered flight, number 6560, travelling from Yellowknife to Resolute.

The crash has sent a wave of sorrow through the tiny community.

 

“People are still in shock,” said local resident Doreen McDonald.

The site is less than two kilometres west of the community and is accessible by ATV, but the terrain is rough.

The military was already in the area as part of an operational exercise  — Operation Nanook. The 700 personnel on the ground for the operation were well positioned to help with the rescue.

Chris Krepski, spokesman for the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, said investigators were already in Resolute, scheduled to participate in the military exercise. One of the scenarios planned next week was a mock plane crash.

Krepski said it was too soon to say what caused the crash.

RCMP said they had recovered two black boxes from the crash site, and that they were sending six forensic identification officers to Resolute.

Four of those officers will identify the deceased while the remaining two will be dedicated to the accident investigation.

Witnesses have said there was thick fog in the area Saturday. An airport worker, who wouldn’t give his name, said there was a low cloud ceiling at the time of the crash. It lifted about 10 minutes afterward.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper was scheduled to be in Resolute this coming week to observe the military operation.

Gov. Gen. David Johnston and his wife are currently touring Nunavut and were in Resolute Saturday morning. Johnston’s events have been cancelled for Sunday.

 

telegram@thetelegram.com

Organizations: RCMP, National Post Morgan Cox, Transportation Safety Board of Canada First Air

Geographic location: Nunavut, Resolute Bay, Arctic Newfoundland Yellowknife Ottawa Iqaluit

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page

Comments

Comments

Recent comments

  • steve
    August 22, 2011 - 19:28

    Two great comrades who left our shores to provide a better life for their families.To Nflders far and wide,God Guard Thee and remember our brothers who perished doing what so many of us have done to have a better life and to enrich those who have not had the great fortune of being born an Islander. rest in peace gentlemen,rest in peace.

  • Leah
    August 22, 2011 - 15:07

    I do agree with Steve's comment. Deepest heartfelt condolences, and prayers, to the families.

  • Kings
    August 22, 2011 - 12:16

    We just put a very dear loved one on a plane to travel to Arviat. He has been living and working there for the past ten years. Though we have been fortunate that he has had safe travels, the thought of what could happen is never far from our minds. This tragic event brings this home even more so. Our hearts go with him as he travels today and tomorrow. We are so sorry for the heartache of the families and friends of those who were lost. Our thoughts and prayers are with you. May your loved ones rest in peace.

  • Steve
    August 22, 2011 - 06:55

    While the Telegram has kept the name private, Ms. Ghent gave quite an interview to someone that ran in the Winnepeg Free Press, giving the name of the deceased and releasing quite more info as well. I found this very disturbing as the name began to appear in other news items afterwords. I don't think it was her place to give this info out. Did she get consent from the family? Highly unlikely. She went way beyond common sense with this one. I realize she is a fereelance reporter/journalist, but she lives in that small town and should know what this could do to the family. Very irresponsible Ms. Ghent!