FOND DU LAC, Sask. – Investigators say a plane that crashed near a remote northern Saskatchewan community last year had ice on it when it took off.
All 25 people on board the West Wind Aviation plane escaped the wreckage after the plane went down near the Fond du Lac airstrip soon after takeoff on Dec. 13. Nine people were seriously injured and one 19-year old man, Arson Fern Jr., later died in hospital.
The Transportation Safety Board said in an update Monday the investigation is still ongoing, but investigators have determined the plane arrived at the airport around 5:25 p.m. after encountering icing conditions.
“The anti-icing and de-icing systems were activated,” said the update. “When the de-icing and anti-icing systems were turned off, residual ice remained on portions of the aircraft.”
The plane stayed at the Fond du Lac airport to take on new passengers and cargo, but it was not de-iced before taking off again.
Investigators are trying to determine why that didn’t happen and whether there was adequate equipment at the airport.
The update said West Wind Aviation had some de-icing equipment in the terminal, including two ladders, a hand-held spray bottle with electric blanket and wand, and a container of de-icing fluid.
West Wind Aviation issued a statement Monday that said the company continues to work with the Transportation Safety Board and Transport Canada. Its website says air operations are still suspended.
Survivors of the plane crash have filed a class-action lawsuit alleging the airline was negligent, used a runway that was too short for the size and weight of the plane and did not have proper de-icing equipment. None of those allegations has been proven in court.
The safety board said it’s important not to draw conclusions about the cause of the crash until the investigation is complete.
Investigators have determined the plane was not overweight.
“The flight’s takeoff weight was about 35,370 pounds, below the maximum structural takeoff weight and the centre of gravity was within limits,” said the update.
Investigators will analyze the plane’s performance based on the weight and balance, as well as look at weather and runway conditions on the day of the crash.
A detailed weather analysis shows that there was patchy moderate rime icing in the clouds from 900 to 2,100 metres above sea level. Rime ice is rough and opaque, formed by drops that rapidly freeze on impact.
The surface temperature at Stony Rapids, 80 kilometres east of Fond du Lac, was -10 C.