As two black boxes containing flight data from the First Air Boeing 737-200 were being handled inside an Ottawa laboratory on Monday, family and friends of two men from this province were just beginning to process the weekend’s events.
Chesley Tibbo, 49, of Harbour Mille and Michael Rideout, 65, of Mount Pearl were on board the flight that claimed a total of 12 lives near Resolute Bay, Nunavut on Saturday.
Rideout’s widow, Anne Rideout, said her late 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, pausing, audibly fighting back tears.
It was also Rideout’s third plane crash, she said.
His first was about 30 years ago in Churchill Falls. The second was in 2008 in Cambridge Bay in Nunavut and, in that case, she said, he was lucky to be rescued.
“In fact, he was told that because of his age and because of some health conditions that he has, that another 30 minutes and he wouldn’t have made it, because he had already gone into hypothermia and they had no warm clothing, nothing with them.”
The Cambridge Bay flight was a Summit Air charter that landed on the tundra, about 1.5 kilometres South of the runway. It was the middle of the night, Dec. 13, with blowing snow and the air on the back of a snowmobile hitting a driver at about -40 C. The experience was unnerving for Rideout.
“He was very scared of flying after that, but he made himself do it. He always said to me that you know that when we fly, there’s never any guarantees.”
Tibbo was on board the same 2008 flight. Injured in the event, he had told friends and family the experience had been unnerving for him as well. He had returned to work only recently, according to neighbour Pamela Pardy Ghent.
The day of the crash was his 49th birthday. Contacted by The Telegram, the Tibbo family has declined comment at this time.
“The man’s got a heart of gold. He’d do anything for you,” said co-worker Morgan Cox of Fortune, asked about Tibbo on Monday. Cox worked with Tibbo for about four years.
He worked with Rideout for 13. “(Rideout) was always joking around. Always had a smile on his face, joking with everybody,” he said.
Cox himself has spent 15 years flying in and out of Resolute Bay, working construction projects. He had been asked to fly in again on Saturday, but 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.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a statement Monday to those in mourning as a result of the crash, offering personal condolences. “The thoughts and prayers of all Canadians are with you as you grieve,” he said.
At the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) conference in St. John’s, federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq apologized to delegates for her voice being hoarse, explaining that she had been on the phone a lot in recent days since the tragic plane crash.
“Everyone (in the North) is affected. I’m affected by it. I know people that were in the accident and I know families who have lost loved ones. We’ve also lost two individuals from Newfoundland, as well, so my condolences go out to the families.”
At the CMA event, Newfoundland’s Health Minister Jerome Kennedy also offered his condolences to the families. He described it as a “horrible situation,” and said hopefully investigators will find out what happened and if there are mistakes, fix them.
The company that owns the plane has said it doesn’t know why the jet went down.
Transportation Safety Board officials have said it will be at least several days to analyze information from the plane’s flight recorders. A final report on the crash could take more than a year.