A man who survived a plane crash that killed five others in northwestern Ontario managed to pull a woman to safety before flames engulfed the aircraft, provincial police said.
The Bearskin Airlines plane went down just after 6:30 p.m. local time on approach to the Red Lake airport, about 500 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay, Ontario Provincial Police said.
The twin-engine turboprop burst into flames when it hit the ground, and only two people survived, police said.
The two pilots – a 25-year-old from Mississauga, west of Toronto, and a 34-year-old from Winnipeg – were among those killed, police said.
Three passengers – a 53-year-old woman, a 53-year-old man and a 64-year-old woman, all from Red Lake – were also killed, but police did not release their names.
The survivors were identified as a 29-year-old man and a 50-year-old woman, both from Winnipeg.
“The one male was actually the one that called us to report the crash,” said Sergeant Rob McDonough at the provincial police communications centre in Thunder Bay.
“He was able to pull the woman out of the wreckage prior to it becoming fully engulfed in flames.”
The two were taken by ambulance to hospital where McDonough said they were treated for non-life-threatening injuries. He noted the man was able to walk to the ambulance, while the woman appeared to have suffered a back injury.
Paul Chatelain, CEO of the Red Lake Margaret Cochenour Memorial Hospital, said both survivors are in stable condition but “pretty shaken up right now.”
He said the pair has asked for privacy at this time.
The tragedy has left the community of roughly 4,600 people with “extremely heavy hearts,” said Red Lake Mayor Phil Vinet.
“We are pretty tight-knit, for residents and visitors alike, so when something does happen, it affects all of us,” he said.
The plane had taken off from Sioux Lookout, Ont., on a flight to Red Lake, 270 kilometres north of Kenora, and about 100 kilometres east of the Manitoba boundary.
During the crash McDonough said the 19-seat aircraft knocked down some hydro lines.
“The plane was totally destroyed by the flames,” he said. “Upon impact it burst into flames and then set bush around it on fire as well.”
A local fire crew quickly doused the flames in both the plane and the woods, he added.
Provincial police issued a release early Monday, saying the names of the deceased would be released after their next of kin were notified.
There’s no word yet on the cause of the crash, but McDonough said Transportation Safety Board investigators from Winnipeg were expected to arrive at the site Monday afternoon.
Once they arrive at the site, investigators will examine “all aspects of the aircraft,” including the structure, controls, engines, propeller and landing gear, to see if “any of it could be related to the accident that happened,” said TSB spokesman Peter Hildebrand.
There were light clouds and moderate winds out of the northwest around the time of the crash, as well as some snow showers, “but not anything severe in terms of this time of year,” he said.
Transport Minister Lisa Raitt expressed her condolences on Twitter.
“My thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by the tragic air accident near Red Lake last evening. Thank you to first responders,” she wrote.
Bearskin Airlines is based in Sioux Lookout and has operated since 1963, employing 300 people in Ontario and Manitoba.
Its fleet of 16 Fairchild Metro planes serve 18 destinations in the two provinces.
In May, 1995 a Bearskin aircraft collided with a Piper Navajo near the Sioux Lookout airport, killing all eight people on board the two planes.
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