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Pilot killed after plane crashes in bush near Snow Lake

Makeshift road cleared for emergency crews to help survivors

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A 40-year-old pilot from Snow Lake was killed and seven male passengers suffered a variety of injuries in a plane crash near the town in northern Manitoba.

RCMP said shortly after 10 a.m., a 911 call was received from a passenger on board the plane advising of a crash near Snow Lake.

The plane is operated by Gogal Air Services of Snow Lake.

The pilot’s name was not released by the RCMP, however, a resident in town said that Mark Gogal, son of the company owner Larry Gogal, died in the crash.

"Everyone’s in shock here," said one man from Snow Lake, who didn’t want his name used. "It’s something we’ve never dealt with here before.

"Everyone’s very upset."

Another member of the community said some employees of Dumas Mine Contracting out of eastern Canada were aboard the plane and were taken first to Snow Lake Health Centre. The injured were then medivaced to hospitals in either The Pas, Flin Flon or Thompson.

Calls to both Gogal Air Services and Dumas Mine Contracting were not returned.

After the 911 call came in, RCMP, along with paramedics and volunteer fire officials were dispatched to the scene, which is in the bush about two kilometres east of the Snow Lake airport and about 10 kms from town.

Rescuers reached the site of the wreckage just before noon.

Snow Lake is 685 kilometres north of Winnipeg.

A northern contractor, Gerald Strilkiwski, used machinery to clear a path through the bush so emergency vehicles could get to the site of the plane crash, said a Snow Lake town official.

Deputy mayor Rupert Klyne also said dozens of residents raced to the scene on snowmobiles and ATVs.

"With a tragedy like this in Snow Lake, you could count on machines coming from all directions," he said.

RCMP Staff Sgt. Line Karpish would not identify the victim until next of kin have been notified.

"The rescue efforts have been very difficult. This is in the middle of nowhere, for all intents and purposes.

"They had to cut their way in," said Karpish.

She said a wide range of rescue services are involved, including the Snow Lake fire department, provincial conservation and water stewardship, and RCMP.

A Canadian Forces Hercules is above the crash site, waiting for a break in the weather, Karpish said.

"The weather is very bad. We have a Herc circling around — he can’t land and they can’t jump."

Karpish said Snow Lake has a very small RCMP detachment, and that The Pas and Flin Flon Mounties are coming to help.

Transportation Safety Board of Canada investigator Ross Peden was getting ready to fly to Snow Lake early this afternoon.

"We don’t know very much at this time," Peden said. "We should be on the scene later on this evening."

Peden confirmed the plane is a Cessna 208 Caravan operated by Gogal Air Services.

"Folks are out in the bush right now helping people. There’s a medivac plane on the way right now," Snow Lake Mayor Clarence Fisher said early this afternoon.

Fisher said the hospital is well-equipped and staffed by Dr. Neil Macleod and several nurses, but has no operating room. They can certainly stabilize the victims of the plane crash, said the mayor.

"It would put it close to the top of what it could handle," Fisher said.

"The Snow Lake Airport is 15 kilometres from town, this site is another 10 kilometres" in deep bush, Fisher said. The nearest road is called the old Stall Lake Mine road, the mayor said.

Fisher said Snow Lake has no regular passenger service to Winnipeg, but Gogal Air Services flies back and forth regularly.

"You’ll have a fair number of contractors, mining companies, executives coming in," he said.

Gogal is a family business, and also owns Burntwood fly-in fishing and hunting lodge, the mayor said. Father Larry Gogal and sons Brad and Mark are the air service’s pilots, Fisher said.


Updated on Sunday, November 18, 2012 at 12:48 PM CST: Adds details from RCMP news release

1:07 PM: Adds comments from RCMP

1:36 PM: Adds spokesman from Transportation Safety Board.

2:03 PM: Adds Snow Lake mayor

2:33 PM: Added pictures

2:50 PM: Changes number of injured to seven from eight after RCMP issue updated news release.

5:29 PM: Updates with confirmation pilot died in crash.

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