UPDATED: Four passengers, two crew dead in Fort Smith crash

One survivor remains in Yellowknife hospital as condolences pour in for all those affected by tragic accident

A British Aerospace Jetstream aircraft, similar to the model shown here, operated by Northwestern Air Lease was involved in an 'incident' outside of Fort Smith this morning. (CKLB file photo.)

The NWT Coroner has confirmed four passengers and two crew died in Tuesday’s plane crash at Fort Smith, with one survivor being treated in Stanton Territorial Hospital in Yellowknife.

This notice cleared up incorrect information from a source on the total number of fatalities, posted for a short time here on late Tuesday. CKLB regrets that error.

“All next of kin notifications have been completed by RCMP,” stated Chief Coroner Garth Eggenberger in a media release this morning, noting a team from his office is in Fort Smith.

In a statement of condolences this morning, Fort Smith town council lamented the loss of “treasured members of our community.”

“The Mayor and Council of the Town of Fort Smith are deeply saddened by the tragic losses within our community in the past days and wish to convey our condolences to all the families, friends, and the community,” reads the statement.

“We are all friends, neighbours, coworkers. We understand that you may not wish to be alone right now. That you may want to talk about it with others that are experiencing the same feelings of grief and trauma.”

The town opened the Recreation Centre this morning for those who wished to gather.

The recovery process continues today at the sight of the crash of the Northwestern Air Lease British Aerospace Jetstream, which went down just after takeoff west of Fort Smith, on the NWT Alberta border.

The 19-seat plane was heading to Diavik diamond mine, parent company Rio Tinto confirmed Tuesday night.

“We have been informed by authorities that a plane on its way to our Diavik mine, carrying a number of our people, crashed near Fort Smith, Northwest Territories, Canada, resulting in fatalities,” said the international mining company in a statement of condolences. “As a company we are absolutely devastated by this news and offering our full support to our people and the community who are grieving today,” stated Rio Tinto chief executive Jakob Stausholm.

“We are working closely with authorities and will help in any way we can with their efforts to find out exactly what has happened.”

NWT Premier RJ Simpson responded later Tuesday, “with a heavy heart.”

“I express my deepest condolences to the families, friends, and loved ones of those who were aboard the Northwestern Air flight that crashed outside of Fort Smith.

“The impact of this incident is felt across the territory. The people we lost were not just passengers on a flight; they were neighbours, colleagues, friends and loved ones. Their stories and contributions to our communities will not be forgotten.

“In the Northwest Territories, we come together and take care of each other, especially during difficult times. To those affected by this tragedy: as you navigate this time of grief and sorrow, remember that you have the thoughts and prayers of residents across the NWT.

“We stand with you, we grieve with you, and we share the pain of your loss.”

Simpson thanked the first responders and rescue teams working at the crash site.

The Canadian Press confirmed the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre Trenton responded after the plane lost contact shortly after taking off near the town.

The Air Force, RCMP and Canadian Rangers were all involved in the search-and-rescue on Tuesday, said David Lavallee, a public affairs officer with Search and Rescue Region Trenton.

Three Air Force squadrons provided air support, while police and rangers conducted a search on the ground, stated a military spokesperson.

Diavik mine, about 220 kilometres south of the Arctic Circle in the Northwest Territories, has been in operation for over 20 years. (File photo/CKLB)

“Canadian Rangers located the aircraft near the Slave River, and (search-and-rescue) … parachuted into the site,” David Lavallee told Canadian Press.

The Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority advised residents that Fort Smith Health Centre activated “its mass casualty protocol” at approximately 8:50 a.m. Tuesday in response to an aviation incident near the community.

Diavik diamond mine is located about 220 kilometres south of the Arctic Circle in the Northwest Territories and has been in operation for just over 20 years.

Premier Simpson noted people can seek support “by talking to your loved ones,” calling 811 OR 1-844-258-1793 or accessing one of the services listed here.”

The City of Yellowknife also extended condolences and sympathies to the families and friends of those aboard the Northwestern Air Flight.

“Our thoughts are with everyone affected by this tragedy,” stated Mayor Rebecca Alty. “As a community, we mourn with you for the lives of those lost and we offer our support during this incredibly difficult time”

This story will be updated today with more information as we receive it. CKLB apologizes for an update posted Tuesday afternoon that contained incorrect information. Corrections were made as soon as it was brought to our attention. We appreciate having such supportive and instructive listeners and readers.

You can always contact a reporter at: news@CKLBradio.com.

Town of Fort Smith. Tuesday’s fatal crash happened at Bell Rock, west of the airport on the shore of the Slave River. (Image from Google Earth.)


– with files from Mariah Caruso


About the Author

James O'Connor
James O’Connor joined CKLB 101.9 FM at the start of 2024, after working as a journalist, photo editor and managing editor at newspapers in Manitoba and the Northwest Territories. James also has experience in politics, arts, service clubs and the NWT’s non-profit sector. At this point in his lengthy career, James is thrilled to be working at such a unique media outlet and always welcomes notes from listeners at: james.oconnor@cklbradio.com.