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Black box recovered from downed plane, infant boy killed

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RCMP have recovered the black box from the Saturday afternoon Perimeter Air plane crash that killed a six-month-old boy in the Nunavut community of Sanikiluaq.

Investigators are waiting to interview the pilot, who was airlifted to Winnipeg this morning, and the co-pilot, who was flown here last night with serious injuries, said Gail Connors of the Transportation Safety Board’s Montreal office.

"We need to do our interviews once they’re in better shape," Connors said.

"The coroner is on the way to the site" from Iqaluit, she said.

Sanikiluaq is an Inuit community of about 800 people on Flaherty island in Hudson Bay.

Connors said the board is still deciding whether to send its own investigators to the scene.

The seven passengers were all local residents returning to the island from Winnipeg, she said. ""I don’t know the extent of all the injuries yet."

The aircraft was a twin-engined Fairchild Swearingen Metroliner, she said. "It had cargo and passengers last night.

"It’s substantially damaged. There was no post-impact fire."

Connors said that the aircraft was on its second approach around 5 p.m. Saturday when it overshot the runway by about 200 metres. There were no trees, but she was uncertain if the plane hit rocks. The gravel runway was snow-packed, Connors said.

"There was blowing snow" and the island is wind-swept, she said. "There’s a weather observer at the airport to give information to the pilot," she said. "They’re able to give the pilot runway conditions."

Investigators are still trying to determine if the baby was held in someone’s lap, or was strapped in in any way, possibly in a car seat, she said. 

Sgt. Greg Sutherland of Iqaluit RCMP said that Sanikiluaq has only two officers, both of whom rushed to the scene Saturday, and are handling the investigation.

"It’s a very isolated location. It’s a very flat, windy island," Sutherland said.

Neither Connors nor Sutherland was aware of any other aircraft incidents at Sanikiluaq in recent years.

Local merchants referred all inquiries to the town’s administrators, who refused to comment this morning.

Perimeter president Mark Wehrle is reportedly on his way to the crash site.

Flight 671 originated in Winnipeg and was chartered for Keewatin Air, which schedules three trips a week between Winnipeg and Sanikiluaq. 

Wehrle said Saturday that Keewatin usually flies people from the small community in and out of Winnipeg for medical treatment. He said that six staff from Perimeter and Keewatin were heading to the community.

"We're arranging to go up and meet with the community and all the people involved and work with the authorities to determine the cause and go from there."

Perimeter Aviation is based in Winnipeg and operates more than 30 aircraft. Its website says it offers air ambulance, charters and cargo services to destinations throughout North America.

 

---with files from The Canadian Press

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