Rio Tinto workers killed as plane crashes in Canada’s north-west

By Nia Williams

British Columbia: A small plane carrying Rio Tinto workers has crashed near Fort Smith in Canada’s remote Northwest Territories on Tuesday during a flight to its Diavik diamond mine, killing some people on board.

There were no details on how many people died nor how many had been on board, but Northwestern Air Lease, the plane’s registered owner, said on its website it has two types of BAE Jetstreams in its fleet, both able to carry 19 passengers.

Jakob Stausholm, chief executive officer of Rio Tinto.
Jakob Stausholm, chief executive officer of Rio Tinto.Credit: Bloomberg

Three Royal Canadian Air Force squadrons supported search and rescue efforts for the aircraft, which was found near the Slave River after it lost contact shortly after take-off near Fort Smith, said Maxime Cliche, a public affairs officer with the Canadian Armed Forces.

Rio Tinto chief executive Jakob Stausholm said in a statement that the company was devastated by the crash.

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

Northwestern Air Lease did not respond to requests for comment, but the premier of the Northwest Territories put out a statement mourning those lost.

“It is with a heavy heart that 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 today,” Premier R.J. Simpson said.

Chief coroner of Northwest Territories Garth Eggenberger confirmed there were fatalities but said officials would not be providing any further information until next of kin were notified.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police did not respond to requests for comment.

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The Fort Smith Health Centre said it activated its mass casualty protocol about 8.50am (local time) in response to “an aviation incident near the community” to free resources to respond.

A team of investigators has been deployed to look into the accident, Canada’s Transportation Safety Board said, adding that it was gathering information.

Rio has been operating Diavik, the biggest diamond mine in Canada, since it started production in 2003, before taking full control in 2021.

The crash comes a day after three people were killed and four seriously injured in a helicopter crash in neighbouring British Columbia.

Reuters, Bloomberg

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