SASKATOON – Canada’s transportation safety board is scheduled to release recommendations today after a plane crash last year near a remote northern Saskatchewan community.
All 25 people on board the West Wind Aviation plane escaped when it crashed 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.
Investigators previously said the plane had ice on it when it took off, but the investigation was ongoing.
West Wind Aviation CEO Michael Rodyniuk took over the company in October and says they’re a very different airline now. He says the airline’s northern destinations all have enhanced de-icing equipment.
“We have made sweeping improvements to our equipment, infrastructure, processes and Safety Management System,” Rodyniuk said in a release Thursday.
Investigators say the plane arrived at the Fond du Lac airport around 5:25 p.m. after encountering icy conditions. The plane took on new passengers and cargo, but 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.
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.
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.
Vice Chief Joseph Tsannie from the Prince Albert Grand Council, which represents northern First Nations including Fond du Lac, says the airline is a lifeline for the community.
“Right now during freeze-up, we only depend on the airline to get in and out of community,” he says. “And the demands to haul freight into the communities is very challenging.”