3 dead in Labrador float plane crash, fate of 4 others unknown

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This is the view of the Mistastin Lake crater from Discovery Peak. The lake is the site of a float plane crash. (Michael Zanetti)

Three people are dead following the crash of an Air Saguenay plane into a Labrador lake on Monday night.

Jean Tremblay, the chief executive of Air Saguenay, confirmed the deaths on Tuesday morning and said the fate of four other people aboard is unclear.

“We don’t know yet,” Tremblay said. “We don’t know who is missing and who is dead, for now. We’re still hoping we will find some survivors.”

The plane either crashed on landing or takeoff, Tremblay said, and was found submerged in water about two kilometres off the shoreline.

The Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre (JRCC) in Halifax got a call at 11:30 p.m. AT that a de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver float plane was overdue.

Seven people were on board, heading from a fishing lodge at Crossroads Lake, near the Quebec border, to a remote camp on Mistastin Lake in northern Labrador.

We’re hoping that he’s still alive, but for now we don’t know– Jean Tremblay, CEO Air Saguenay, on fate of pilot

The group was scheduled to be back at Crossroads Lake by 6 p.m. AT Monday, but did not return. A Hercules airplane was put in the air as soon as the call came in to JRCC. The Hercules spotted the wreckage at 5 a.m. on Tuesday morning.

A fishing lodge has chartered a second plane to fly to Mistastin Lake to help with the search for possible survivors.

Maj. Mark Gough of the Armed Forces said it’s too early to make assumptions about the fate of the missing.

“We don’t know that yet. We won’t know until our guys are on the ground in the next little while and they do the search for any possible survivors.”

CBC News and Radio-Canada had previously reported there were four deaths, based on information from Tremblay. He later said that was the information he had at the time, but it has since changed to three dead and four missing.

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Experienced pilot used to the area

Tremblay said the airline is a tightly knit group, where the employees all know each other.

The pilot is a 61-year-old man with 20,000 hours of flying experience and at least six years of flying in and out of Mistastin Lake. It’s not yet known if he is counted among the dead or missing.

“We’re hoping that he’s still alive, but for now we don’t know,” Tremblay said. “We’re praying.”

The De Havilland DHC-2 Beaver seaplane, as seen on the Air Saguenay website. (Air Saguenay)

He was flying with four passengers and two fishing guides on board.

As of 11 a.m. on Tuesday, Gough said next of kin was still being contacted.

The cause of the crash is unknown, but officials with the Transportation Safety Board have been called in to investigate.

All DHC-2 Beaver aircraft were built between 1947 and 1967, but it’s not clear how old this plane was.

It’s the third fatal crash since 2010 of a Beaver belonging to Air Saguenay.

One crashed into a mountainside near Lake Péribonka, Que., in bad weather on July 16, 2010. Four of the six people on board were killed.

In 2015, an Air Saguenay flight crashed into a remote wooded area near Les Bergeronnes, Que., killing all six on board.

Tremblay said it’s not a common part of flying, but an unfortunate reality that comes with the industry.

“It’s always sad news when a crash happens.”

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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