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Airplane flips

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, April 17, 2008

TTHEK'EHDELI/JEAN MARIE RIVER - A pilot was able to walk away from the site of a plane crash in Jean Marie River on April 10.

The pilot was the only person in the Cessna 172, single engine airplane, operated by Wolverine Air, that was landing on the community's runway at 5:51 p.m. on Thursday, said Michel Lafrance, the regional superintendent of transportation.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Wolverine Air's Cessna 172 lies upside down at the end of the runway in Jean Marie River following an accident on April 10. - photo courtesy of Jean Marie River First Nation

The wheels of the plane touched the ground 1,600 feet down the 2,500 foot long runway, said Lafrance. According to witnesses the pilot applied power to the plane, presumably to take off and do another landing, Lafrance said.

During the manoeuvre witnesses saw the nose wheel of the plane hit a small snowbank at the end of the runway which caused the plane to overturn and land on its back, he said. The pilot was able to crawl out of the plane and went to the band office. It was reported the pilot's hands were injured but the extent of the injury isn't known, said Lafrance.

The condition of the runway wasn't a factor in the accident, he said.

"Runway conditions were excellent," Lafrance said.

No weather reports are available for Jean Marie River at the time of the accident but weather in Fort Simpson was excellent, he said.

The timing of the accident was ironic, said Arnold Gargan, the economic development officer for the Jean Marie River First Nation.

Earlier that day staff with the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs were in the community holding an information meeting with the band about community emergency plans. The meeting covered plans for possible emergencies including floods, explosions and plane crashes. The plane crash occurred just half an hour after the meeting ended

"It was a big excitement," said Gargan.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is conducting an investigation into the incident. Scott McIntosh, the local airport manager, also went to the site to conduct an investigation.

The Department of Transportation is investigating the way in which the accident was reported, said Lafrance.

The accident should have been reported immediately by local personnel but the news didn't reach the office in Fort Simpson until Friday morning.

"We're concerned by the delay in reporting the accident to us," said Lafrance.

The quick relay of information is important in such situations in case other incoming planes need to be alerted, he said. The department also has a responsibility to know what's happening at their facilities.

The department will be examining why there was a delay and how to improve their communications system in the future, he said. Lafrance declined to comment on who was responsible for relaying the information.

Calls to Wolverine Air by Deh Cho Drum for a comment on the accident went unanswered by press time.

News/North was able to reach the airline on Saturday, but the person who answered phone said the company was not releasing any information at that time.