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Bad weather delays search for float plane passengers at Labrador crash site


ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – Bad weather has forced the RCMP to call off flights taking search teams to the remote Labrador lake where a float plane carrying seven people crashed on Monday.

Three bodies have been found and four men are still missing, though authorities have suggested there is little hope of finding survivors so many days after the crash, the cause of which is still unknown.

RCMP spokeswoman Cpl. Jolene Garland says multiple air trips will be needed to carry personnel and equipment to Mistastin Lake, about 100 kilometres southwest of Nain, where debris from the plane was spotted on Tuesday.

Garland initially said the plan was to have everyone on site today, but she later clarified after speaking with officers in Labrador that no flights were able to take off because of heavy rain and high winds.

“We forecast and hope for a window of opportunity as predicted for tomorrow to get in there, but as of today the efforts have not been able to begin to be deployed because of poor weather conditions,” she said.

Multiple flights carrying divers and equipment have been “quite the operation to arrange,” Garland said. The operation also includes a plan for a helicopter to carry a boat by sling to the lake, which is only accessible by air.

Garland said Wednesday that divers will begin from the known location of the wreck and expand the search area from there.

Maritime Forces Atlantic co-ordinated the rescue effort until nightfall on Tuesday before handing the search over to the RCMP.

Pilot Gilles Morin, 61, of Quebec has been identified by his employer as one of the seven men who was on board.

The RCMP said the two fishing guides on board were from Newfoundland and Labrador and the four fishermen, travelling from Three Rivers Lodge in Labrador to a remote fishing site, were from the United States.

The group had departed for the fishing site on Mistastin Lake on Monday morning, but never returned that evening as planned. It’s unknown at what time the crash occurred.

Jean Tremblay, president of Air Saguenay, the Quebec airline that owns the plane, said Morin was a safe and experienced pilot, and was at a loss as to why the de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver crashed.

Tremblay said the aircraft had been inspected this spring and was not close to due for another one.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada said it would deploy a team of investigators to gather information about the crash.

According to a listing of TSB reports online, the crash is the fourth recorded incident involving an Air Saguenay-owned plane since 2010, and the third causing multiple fatalities.

Copyright (c) 2019 The Canadian Press