OHS Canada Magazine

‘An inspiration’: Woman mourns brother who died in Northwest Territories plane crash

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January 26, 2024
By The Canadian Press

Health & Safety Aviation Safety northwest territories

Howie Benwell, 30, who recently died in the plane crash near Fort Smith, N.W.T., is shown in this handout image provided by sister Crystal Benwell. She describes her brother as someone who loved music and was an inspiration to many in the tight-knit community of Fort Smith. Howie Benwell worked as a heavy equipment operator at the Diavik Diamond Mine, northeast of Yellowknife. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO- Crystal Benwell

One of the victims of a charter plane crash outside of Fort Smith, N.W.T., earlier this week was a heavy equipment operator at a diamond mine who loved playing music and being an uncle, his sister said Friday.

Crystal Benwell confirmed her brother, Howie Benwell, was on a British Aerospace Jetstream that crashed shortly after takeoff on Tuesday. Four passengers and two crew members died. One survivor is in hospital in Yellowknife.

“Howie was able to light up the room wherever he went,” Benwell said in a Facebook message.

“He was an inspiration to many in and around our community.”

Howie Benwell, who recently turned 30, was headed to work at the Diavik Diamond Mine when the plane operated by Northwestern Air Lease hit the ground and caught fire.


He worked as a heavy equipment operator at the mine, some 300 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife.

Crystal Benwell said her brother was the youngest of the family, loved playing guitar and bass, and held a special spot for his two young nieces.

“He is greatly missed,” she said.

Clayton Balsillie previously confirmed his sister Diane Balsillie, who also worked at the mine, was among those killed.

Investigators started going through the crash site on Thursday.

The Transportation Safety Board released photos from the scene showing the wreckage of the charter plane in a heavily wooded area.

The agency said this kind of investigation is generally completed within 15 months.


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