Community grieving after pilot dies; investigators working to determine what caused plane to crash
Published Monday, November 19, 2012 4:38PM CST
Last Updated Tuesday, November 20, 2012 4:25PM CST
A small northern Manitoba town is in mourning following a plane crash Sunday which killed a pilot and injured several passengers. Community members and officials rushed to help those injured.
A total of eight people were on the plane, which went down around 10 a.m. on Nov. 18 near Snow Lake.
The pilot, 40-year-old Mark Gogal, died from injuries. His family owns the town’s air service.
“We’ve lost a member of the community. He will be sadly missed,” said Mayor Clarence Fisher.
Workers injured, crash survivor places call after plane goes down
The seven passengers on board the plane were all mining contractors who were heading back home out of the province. They worked on a local mining project and lived at a compound in the area.
The extent of their injuries varied, but officials said none of them were reported to be life threatening.
Dumas Mine Contracting issued a statement on Monday.
“To respect the privacy of our employees, Dumas is not releasing the names of these individuals,” said the company.
“The cause of the crash is unclear and is under investigation by the RCMP and the Transportation Safety Board. Dumas is committing all necessary resources to assist in the investigation and support our employees and their families. Our deepest sympathies go out to the family and friends of the pilot, who succumbed to his injuries.”
CTV Winnipeg is told one of the workers made a call to a loved one after the plane went down, and that person then called 911, alerting emergency officials to the crash.
Crews work for hours to get survivors to safety
Emergency crews worked for hours on Sunday, trying to get the injured passengers to safety. Crews were faced with a number of challenges, including the weather and the remoteness of the area.
Snow Lake emergency crews, fire crews, residents, town employees, Canadian Forces and RCMP officers all worked to rescue the passengers.
Gary Balanyk, a mining construction worker, was among those who responded.
“I quickly got the dozer on the scene and that's when we started on the trail,” he said.
Balanyk said he never expected he’d have to use his equipment for a rescue operation.
“I’ve never heard of anybody saying they’d had anything this serious,” said Balanyk.
Balanyk bulldozed through three kilometers of bush to the crash scene.
Word about the crash spread fast in the town of about 850 people, with dozens of community members coming out to help.
“It was a fantastic response from the community. People came together. People came with four-wheelers, snowmobiles. People came with toboggans they carried in (to help carry) people out of the scene,” said Cpl. Jason Schalla from RCMP.
Those injured were initially taken to a local hospital, with some later transported to medical facilities in Winnipeg, Flin Flon, The Pas and Thompson.
“They needed further testing, surgery (things) that we don’t do here. We can handle so much, but we’re a small facility,” said Kelly Wiwcharuk, nurse manager at Snow Lake Health Centre.
On Tuesday, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said the five passengers transported to Winnipeg were all listed in stable condition.
Their injuries ranged from back and abdominal injuries to fractures.
Two others were in hospitals in stable condition in hospitals in Flin Flon and The Pas.
Cause of crash under investigation
The Transportation Safety Board said officials are working to determine the cause of the crash.
TSB officials said it appears the Cessna 208 was operating normally before the crash and was found intact after the impact, but was heavily damaged.
“We’ll remove some of the wreckage to take back to our shop and then in to our lab in Gatineau for analysis,” said Ross Peden from TSB.
The TSB said it could take up to a year for a full report to be completed.
Snow Lake Mayor Clarence Fisher said people are trying to help one another deal with the loss and are working to cope with the tragedy in the small community.