SANIKILUAQ, Nunavut (Canadian OH&S News)
The national police force and transportation watchdog have launched investigations into a deadly plane crash on a secluded island in Nunavut.
On Dec. 22, just before 2 p.m., a plane carrying seven passengers and two crew members crashed and seriously injured the two pilots on board. Six passengers sustained minor injuries, and six-month-old Isaac Appaqaq was fatally wounded and died in hospital.
According to Nunavut’s Chief Coroner Padma Suramala, the baby was flung from his mother’s lap because he had not been wearing his seatbelt at the time of the accident.
Initial reports from Transport Canada indicated that the plane overran the runway on its second attempt to land in blowing snow.
“On the second approach, the aircraft touched down hard and a runway overrun ensued. The aircraft came to a stop approximately 150 to 200 metres past the end of the intended runway service,” a report from Transport Canada said.
The RCMP and the Transportation Safety Board have also kicked off their own separate investigations into the incident, and each ordered teams of investigators to the accident scene on the island of Sanikiluaq, Nunavut.
Because the Sanikiluaq Airport is considered a remote area, the RCMP deployed a search and rescue team to the crash site immediately. However the RCMP confirmed that everyone had been accounted for.
The plane, a turbo-prop twin engine Fairchild Swearingen Metroliner, was owned by Perimeter Aviation, a Manitoba-based company. The chartered flight had left Winnipeg shortly after 1:30 p.m. flying towards Sanikiluaq, Nunavut — also known as the Belcher Islands — in Hudson Bay, about 150 kilometres from Quebec.
“All passengers and crew have been transported to the nursing station and we are awaiting further confirmed information as to their condition,” said Mark Wehrle, Perimeter’s president, who confirmed details of the incident in a statement.
“Our hearts go out to the passengers and crew, and their families during this difficult time,” Wehrle added.
Kathleen Prairie, Transport Canada’s regional communications officer for the Prairies and Northern Region in Edmonton, said in an email that they have appointed a Minister’s Observer that will keep their offices informed of the investigation. As well, they will be following up with the company to ensure that they complied with aviation safety regulations.
Runway overruns are considered a priority on the TSB’s Watchlist, a number of areas which the safety investigator deems to be a high risk to transportation safety. According to the TSB, aircraft typically overshoot the runway when surface conditions are contaminated by rain, snow, ice or slush — thus making it difficult to calculate the landing distance and increasing the likelihood of running off the end or the side of the runway. As part of its solution, the TSB has recommended that pilots receive timely information about runway surface conditions in bad weather, and that airports should lengthen their runways or install other safeguards to safely stop planes which might overrun.