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A small charter plane carrying Rio Tinto workers to its Diavik diamond mine in the Northwest Territories crashed near Fort Smith shortly after taking off on Jan. 23.
It remains unclear how many people were onboard, but the BAE Jetstream operated by Northwestern Air Lease, the plane’s registered owner, can carry 19 passengers.
According to Canadian Press, the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre Trenton responded when the Jetstream lost contact after takeoff, deploying aircraft from three Royal Canadian Air Force squadrons, as well as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Canadian Rangers.
“Canadian Rangers located the aircraft near the Slave River, and (search-and-rescue) … parachuted into the site,” public affairs officer David Lavallee told CP.
Fearing the worst, the Fort Smith Health Centre activated its mass casualty protocol at around 8:50 a.m. The Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority did not say how many injured it was expecting. But in a statement, it said “we are working closely with other emergency response agencies.”
According to CP, fatalities were confirmed by the chief coroner of Northwest Territories.
The National Transportation Safety Board has deployed an investigation team.
“We are working closely with authorities and will help in any way we can with their efforts to find out exactly what has happened,” Rio Tinto chief executive Jakob Stausholm said in a statement.