Two pilots are dead and seven passengers are injured after a chartered float plane crashed into a Yellowknife hill just metres from its dock.
The mid-sized Twin Otter plane went down around 1:15 p.m. Thursday afternoon amid high winds and after it appeared to lose power over the Northwest Territories capital.
“We are deeply saddened to confirm that our two pilots did not survive,” a spokeswoman for a sister company of the airline, Arctic Sunwest, confirmed in a statement Friday morning. “Our immediate focus is on the passengers, their family and the family of our crew members. Our thoughts and deepest condolences go out to them.”
RCMP said they had no updates Friday morning as Transportation Safety Board officials arrived to begin their investigation. The identities of the two dead have been confirmed by the territory’s coroner. Both Trevor Jonasson, 36, and Nicole Stacey, 26, were pronounced dead at the scene.
The plane’s pilot was able to crash-land the plane on a road, hitting only a car while avoiding seriously damaging buildings on either side.
“Unbelievable, really, to go over a bed and breakfast and land on a road before hitting an office building,” Mayor Gordon Van Tighem said. “And it's not a wide road.”
Witnesses say the plane, en route to Yellowknife from a remote community, aborted a landing and was unstable as it circled back. The company confirmed the plane was headed to its float plane base on Great Slave Lake, which is next to the crash site.
“For some reason, the pilot decided not to land. So he brought the plane up again and somehow it got out of control. It narrowly missed our building,” said John Doody, owner of Bayside Bed and Breakfast, which sits next to the crash site. The plane then grazed a nearby building before flipping around and coming to a rest, he said.
“There was a huge crash, as you would think. A huge kaboom. It was like an earthquake.”
The crash site was a stone's throw from where the plane would have tied up on Great Slave Lake, and near a popular local monument to bush pilots.
The plane was heavily damaged, particularly its cockpit. All of the nine injured were on board the plane.
“I saw them pulling the pilot out of it. The front of the airplane – it does not exist,” another witness, a local mechanic, told the CBC. “I can’t help but to be emotional. This is horrible.”
Seven other people on board suffered a range of injuries and were in hospital, health authority spokesman Damien Healy said.
Twin Otters are versatile planes used commonly in the North, and the one that crashed sat 19 people.
It's the second crash to shake the community recently. In late August, a plane that left Yellowknife crashed in Nunavut, killing 12 people.
“These planes are coming and going dozens of times a day,” the mayor said, adding many citizens of his tightly knit city will personally know the victims of the crash. “It's very infrequent that anything untoward happens.”