Two years after Nunavut’s Resolute Bay crash, more questions than answers
Transportation Safety Board report still in the works, "no timeframe" for release
No formal events are scheduled this year on Aug. 20 in Resolute Bay, on the second anniversary of the horrific air crash there which claimed 12 lives on that day in 2011.
But Mike Kristjansen, the logistics manager of the Polar Continental Shelf Program in Resolute Bay, whose office windows look out over the airstrip and hill where the crash tool place, will be thinking about that day and the crash that claimed the life of the PCSP director Martin Bergmann.
Kristjansen said he planned to observe the second anniversary of the crash in a personal way, on his own.
Every day since that crash on Aug. 20, 2011 reminds him how quickly life can change from one moment to the next, he told Nunatsiaq News Aug. 19.
On Aug. 20, 2011, Kristjansen was having lunch at the PCSP cafeteria across from the airport when he saw the fire trucks rushing out, and he wondered if it was another fire response drill organized for Operation Nanook, the annual military exercise taking place then in Resolute Bay.
But minutes later, someone came into the cafeteria to say “plane crash 737,” and Kristjansen and the PCSP’s operations manager ran across to their office on the second floor of a warehouse that overlooks the airport.
When the fog lifted, they could see the smoking wreckage of a First Air Boeing 737-200C, which had crashed into a hillside in one of the worst air disasters ever recorded in Nunavut.
Two years later, many questions about what happened in the crash — which took the lives of 12 passengers and crew and spared three passengers, Robin Wyllie, 48, Nicole Williamson, 23, and Gabrielle Aleeasuk Pelky, seven — remain unanswered.
Transportation Safety Board investigators have yet to explain what caused one of worst air disasters ever recorded in Nunavut.
The drafting of the report is in the final stages, said TSB spokesperson John Cottreau Aug. 19.
But there’s “still no timeframe as to when the report will be released,” he said.
In a progress report, TSB investigators classified the incident as a “controlled flight into terrain” accident.
That means the aircraft was flown unintentionally into an obstacle or terrain, without prior awareness by the flight crew.
Since the crash, Wyllie, Williamson, Pelky (represented by her mother Brenda), and the families of eight people who died: Bergmann, Cheyenne Mary-Jane Eckalook, six, Lise Linda Lamoureux, 23, Steven Michael Girouard, 38, Randolph Alexander Reid, 56, Michael Rideout, 65, Raymond Pitre, 39, and Clarence Tibbo, 49, as well as the four crew members who perished, First Air flight attendants Ann Marie Chassie, 42, and Uta Merritt, 55, and for First Air pilot Blair Rutherford, 48, and co-pilot David Henry Hare, 35, have filed statements of claim against the various parties, which include the Department of National Defense, Nav Canada and First Air.
When contacted by Nunatsiaq News, the lawyer representing three survivors and seven of the families of those who filed statements, Adrian C. Wright of Yellowknife, said this week that he had “nothing to say” — although the statements he filed said the claims, filed May 16, 2012, were to be heard at the Nunavut Court of Justice in Iqaluit, within a year of filing.
Last year, many of the family members of those who died on Aug. 20, 2011 were in Resolute Bay for the first anniversary of the crash, where a monument honouring their memory was unveiled.
First Air also held a memorial service, during which all its employees observed a moment of silence at 11:42 a.m., when Flight 6560 slammed into the hillside near the Resolute Bay airport.