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Winnipeg’s Martin Bergmann was among 12 people who died in the crash of a jet airliner in Nunavut Saturday.
Bergmann, director of Natural Resources Canada's Polar Continental Shelf Program, is a St. Vital resident with a wife and four children, family friend MLA Rob Altemeyer confirmed this afternoon.
The First Air 737 crashed into a small hillside near the tiny community's airstrip Saturday, killing 12 and injuring three.
The company that owns the plane said it doesn't know why the jet went down near the High Arctic community of Resolute.
"At this time, the cause of the accident is unknown," said First Air spokesman Christopher Ferris, his voice near breaking.
"Our thoughts and focus are with the families and friends of the passengers and crew and the community."
All four of the plane's crew are among the dead.
Hamlet residents and soldiers from nearby military exercises rushed to the scene of the crash Saturday afternoon in a desperate effort to pull survivors from the flaming wreckage.
Witnesses described wreckage strewn across a hill near the airport runway. One said the plane was broken into three pieces.
The man who chartered the jetliner was struggling to cope with the tragic flight's aftermath.
"It's a bad time," said Aziz Kheraj, a local hotel owner and businessman.
"We lost quite a few people on that plane, so it's pretty tough," Kheraj said. "We lost six staff."
Kheraj had two granddaughters on the plane. One was among the dead. The other has been flown to Ottawa General Hospital.
The site remained cordoned off Sunday as the investigation continued, Kheraj said.
"They haven't moved anybody until the coroner shows up. They've got everybody covered on the crash site.
"We'll wait until we can go in and do what has to be done."
Ferris said the airline is fully co-operating with the Transportation Safety Board, which is on the scene and leading the investigation.
He said counsellors have been deployed to provide support in Resolute, Yellowknife and other main stations in the airline's network.
RCMP Cst. Angelique Dignard said two of the three survivors — Kheraj's seven-year-old granddaughter and a 48-year-old man — have been sent to Ottawa General Hospital.
The third survivor, a 23-year-old woman, remains in a hospital in the territorial capital of Iqaluit. Dignard said all three are in stable condition, but would not comment on the nature of their injuries.
The plane was a chartered flight, number 6560, travelling from Yellowknife to Resolute. Aziz said the run was a regular part of his business.
"We charter this flight every three weeks to bring our food and passengers up. We've done that every three weeks for the last six months."
The crash has sent a wave of sorrow through the tiny community.
"People are still in shock," said local resident Doreen McDonald.
The site is less than two kilometres west of the community and is accessible by ATV, but the terrain is rough.
The military was already in the area as part of an operational exercise — Operation Nanook. The 700 personnel on the ground for the operation were well positioned to help with the rescue.
Chris Krepski, spokesman for the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, said investigators were already in Resolute, scheduled to participate in the military exercise. One of the scenarios planned next week was a mock plane crash.
Krepski said it was too soon to say what caused the crash.
RCMP said they had recovered two black boxes from the crash site, and that they were sending six forensic identification officers to Resolute. Four of those officers will identify the deceased while the remaining two will be dedicated to the accident investigation.
Witnesses have said there was thick fog in the area Saturday. An airport worker, who wouldn't give his name, said there was a low cloud ceiling at the time of the crash. It lifted about 10 minutes afterward.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper was scheduled to be in Resolute this coming week to observe the military operation.
Gov. Gen. David Johnston and his wife are currently touring Nunavut and were in Resolute Saturday morning. Johnston's events have been cancelled for Sunday.
Resolute is a tiny Inuit community of about 250 tucked in a shallow, gravelly bay along the northernmost leg of the Northwest Passage.
Despite its remote location far above the treeline, Resolute is known as the nexus of the North, a frequent staging community for scientific, military and commercial expeditions. It's also the base for the Canadian Polar Continental Shelf project, a federal institution that handles logistics for Arctic researchers.
Resolute is also the planned location of the army's new winter warfare school.
The terrain around the community is low and rocky. A large hill fronted by a dramatic cliff face looms behind the town.
— with files from Winnipeg Free Press staff