A Northwestern Air Lease BAe 3212 Jetstream 32 crashed shortly after takeoff, approximately 500 meters (1,640 feet) west of Fort Smith Airport (YSM).
The aircraft, en route from Fort Smith to Yellowknife Airport (YZF), was carrying workers destined for Rio Tinto’s Diavik diamond mine when it crashed near the banks of the Slave River.
A rescue operation involving the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Canadian Air Force, and the Canadian Rangers was launched. Rescuers were parachuted from a C-130 Hercules onto the crash site. The crash left several dead, according to the Northwest Territories Coroner Service. Unconfirmed media reports claim that up to six people may have died in the accident.
“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,” Rio Tinto Chief Executive, Jakob Stausholm, said in a statement.
The exact aircraft involved is unknown at this point. On its website, Northwestern Air Lease says it operates a fleet of five Jetstream 32 aircraft in its daily operations.
The BAe 3212 Jetstream 32 is a twin-engine turboprop commuter aircraft designed for regional and short-haul flights, with a capacity to carry around 19 passengers.
The Northwest Territories authorities are currently investigating the cause of the incident.
“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 of the Northwest Territories R.J. Simpson said in a statement.
In December 2023, a ski-equipped DHC-6 Twin Otter aircraft operated by Air Tindi crashed near the Diavik diamond mine. All 10 occupants survived.