Investigators to probe Saskatchewan plane crash that injured several passengers

nvestigators will begin combing through the wreckage of a passenger plane to find clues as to why it crashed soon after taking off in northern Saskatchewan.

Officials with the Transportation Safety Board were due to arrive in the remote community of Fond du Lac sometime Thursday to begin their probe of the West Wind Aviation ATR-42 turboprop that went down Wednesday at about 6:15 p.m., injuring several people on board.

Police and first responders quickly worked to get the 22 passengers — including an infant — and three crew out of the plane, which can seat up to 50 passengers.

“The extent of injuries is unknown, other than there were five people that required medevac attention, but they were non-life-threatening injuries,” said Rick Philipenko, vice-president and chief financial officer of the Saskatoon-based airline.

“We train for incidents like this. First and foremost is the well-being of the passengers and crew. With all the hectic activity in this kind of incident it’s really important to make sure that they’re front and centre and that they’re the focus.”

A picture of the crash site shows the damaged aircraft partly on its side in the trees, with a wing jutting up in the air at a 45-degree angle but there was yet no insight into what caused the crash.

Philipenko said the area is under the control of authorities and the TSB.

“We’re an observer when we’re there on site. Our role primarily is to make sure the passengers and crew are looked after,” he said

Darryl McDonald said his 70-year-old mother, Ernestine, suffered a broken jaw and facial injuries when the plane went down about a kilometre from the airstrip. His sister also suffered injuries to her leg.

The twin-engine ATR-42 turboprop can accommodate 50 passengers, but most typically seats 42 people along with two crew. Manufactured in France and Italy, the aircraft is designed for short-haul flights.

ATR, the manufacturer, says more than 1,500 aircraft have been sold, and it has over 200 operators in more than 100 countries, adding that, “every eight seconds, an ATR turboprop takes off or lands somewhere around the world.”

West Wind Aviation, formed in 1983, operates from bases in Saskatoon, La Ronge and Stony Rapids, as well as in northern Saskatchewan. The company is First Nations and employee-owned, with Athabasca Basin Development the majority shareholder.

“Our safety record is exemplary and our customer service exceptional,” the company states on its website. “Fly with West Wind and let us take care for you.”

The airline acquired Transwest Air in 2016 for an undisclosed amount, adding several aircraft to a fleet that included five ATR-42-300s, Twin Otters and Beech planes at the time, and making it one of the province’s largest commercial aviation groups.

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