TSB heading to Nunavut to present air disaster report
Residents of Resolute Bay look forward to March 28 meeting in their community
Residents of Resolute Bay say they will have a few questions for Transportation Safety Board members when TSB officials visit their community this weekend to deliver their final report into the Aug. 20, 2011 crash of First Air flight 6560.
Tabitha Mullin, who was mayor of Resolute Bay at the time, said some people in the community are dismayed this week by media reports that seem to point fingers solely at the pilots.
She said she wants to hear the whole complex chain of events leading to the crash of the Boeing 737-200 jet that killed eight passengers and four crew members instantly and left three badly injured survivors on a hillside that foggy morning nearly three years ago.
“We all sort of felt that we didn’t hear the whole story. It was just more or less pointing the finger at the pilot even though they did mention there were a lot of other factors involved,” Mullin said.
“We were not really satisfied with the reasons the news stories gave us. There are a lot more questions
The TSB released its 207-page report to media and the public March 25 in Ottawa, but the board always makes a point of visiting the community in which an accident occurs as a sign of respect to the people who had to live through the aftermath, said John Cottreau, media spokesperson for the TSB.
Board member Kathy Fox and lead investigator Brian MacDonald will host the March 28 meeting in Resolute and will make the same presentation they made to media on Tuesday, with a question and answer session afterward.
“We’re mindful of this responsibility to make sure people actually see that the investigation was done, that it was completed and that things are happening as a result of it,” said Cottreau.
“We have professionals who have excellent reputations in the field and they have done a thorough and exhaustive report and we certainly want to impart the lessons learned not only to change agents and people who can make a difference in the transportation field, but to folks who were affected by the tragedy as well.”
Makivik Corp., which owns First Air, issued a statement March 26 saying their thoughts are with the people of Yellowknife and Resolute and the families of those impacted by the crash.
“Safety is First Air’s top priority and they have provided a safe and efficient service to our northern communities for more than a half century. Immediately after the accident, First Air launched its own investigation and collaborated fully with the TSB investigators,” the statement said.
Makivik added the airline has already taken action to enhance pilot training, strengthen standard operating procedures and improve monitoring.
“We believe that these changes have helped to make First Air safer and stronger than ever,” Makivik said.
The accident — and the painful revelations from the report this week that concluded that conflicting data, improper training and miscommunication, among other factors, lead to the crash — has brought back many sad memories for the people of Resolute Bay, Mullin said.
Mullin lost a relative that day, Cheyenne Ekalook, six, who had been named after Mullin’s mother.
“There was a lot of sadness for me. The day it happened, the whole community was upset about it, especially with lives lost, whether we knew them or not. A tragedy like that would upset anyone,” she said.
At first, she and many of her neighbours were not alarmed by the sirens at the airport because they thought it was related to the Department of National Defence mock disaster exercise that was going on at the airport at the time.
“All of a sudden, we heard it was a real thing. It was quite a shocker for all of us.”
But like many northerners who must rely on air transportation to get around, after a few weeks of feeling nervous following the crash, Mullin had to get over her fears and remind herself that despite recent events in her own backyard, air travel is still generally a safe method of transportation.
“We have no choice,” she said, laughing. “There’s a lot more safe flights than there are accidents so we need to override that. It makes you wonder, though.”