Airline confirms three dead after float plane crashes in Labrador lake

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Four occupants of a downed float plane remained missing Tuesday after the aircraft crashed into a Labrador lake, killing three others on board.

Jean Tremblay, president of the small Quebec airline that owns the plane, said he was informed by search and rescue officials that three of those aboard were killed, while the condition of the other four people remains unknown.

The identities of those aboard the flight weren’t immediately made public.

Tremblay, president of Air Saguenay, said the de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver was carrying four fishermen, two guides and the pilot. It left Three Rivers Lodge on Crossroads Lake, east of Schefferville, Que., Monday morning headed to a remote fishing camp on Mistastin Lake.

But the plane didn’t return as planned that evening.

“After one hour, the plane was still missing, and there was no news, so we engaged the emergency plan,” Tremblay said from the Saguenay, Que.-based headquarters.

The pilot is an employee of Air Saguenay. Tremblay said he didn’t know the man’s condition.

“Our pilot has been employed with us since 2011, he’s 61 years old with more than 20,000 hours (flying experience),” Tremblay said. “He has been assigned to this specific contract with the outfitter for many years.”

Attempts to contact Three Rivers Lodge were unsuccessful on Tuesday.

A Hercules aircraft dispatched from Greenwood, N.S., spotted the wreckage at about 5 a.m. local time Tuesday on Mistastin Lake, about 120 kilometres southwest of Nain, N.L.

“The plane was submerged and about a mile from the shore,” Tremblay said.

He said the plane had been in good working order. “There was an inspection this spring, and there were many hours (of flight) left before it was due for another inspection,” he said.

Tremblay noted the weather conditions were good on Monday. “The Labrador coast has a bit of micro-climate, I would say, but as far as we know, the conditions were excellent everywhere,” he said.

Rescue officials said two helicopters were sent to the site Tuesday, and a second float plane was also dispatched to assist in search efforts.

Maj. Mark Gough of Maritime Forces Atlantic said military rescuers are searching for survivors at the crash site.

“Authorities are in the process of notifying the next of kin of the seven people on board the float plane, therefore their identities/nationalities will not be released at this time,” Gough said in an emailed statement.

“The cause of the crash is not known as this time.”

The Canadian Transport Safety Board 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.

In July 2010, a DHC-2 Beaver crashed into a mountain near Lake Peribonka, Que. in poor weather, killing four of the six people aboard.

In August 2015, another DHC-2 Beaver struck a mountainside near Les Bergeronnes, Que., not long after taking off from Long Lake near Tadoussac on a sightseeing trip. All seven people on board were killed.

Last July, another DHC-2 Beaver was getting ready to take off from Jules Lake with a pilot and three passengers on board when he aborted takeoff. The plane struck some trees causing damage to the aircraft but no one was injured.

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