By Moira Warburton
(Reuters) – Three people were dead and four missing after a float plane crashed into a lake in a remote part of northeastern Canada, a charter airline service said on Tuesday.
Seven people were aboard the de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver plane operated by Air Saguenay, a small charter airline based in Quebec. The plane crashed in Labrador, part of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador on the eastern coast of Canada.
The seven people aboard were the pilot, two guides and four passengers on a fishing expedition. The plane had been expected to land at 7 p.m. on Monday at Crossroads Lake, where the Three Rivers fishing lodge is located.
When it had not arrived by 8 p.m., the airline began emergency procedures, including sending a second plane on a search mission. After an unsuccessful hour, the company notified the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC), the arm of the Canadian military responsible for search and rescue, which sent out a C-130 Hercules plane at around midnight.
The plane was located by JRCC crews a mile offshore near the southeast end of Mistastin Lake, a crater lake in northern Labrador, at around 6:30 a.m. Tuesday.
The cause of the crash is unknown, according to Jean Tremblay, president of Air Saguenay, as are the whereabouts of the four missing people.
“It’s still too early to know what happened exactly,” he said. “We’re still hoping we’ll find some survivors.”
The JRCC dispatched two helicopters to “assist in looking for survivors,” Mark Gough, spokesman for the JRCC, said in an email. The helicopters arrived in the remote area around midday on Tuesday, and brought local members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to search.
Air Saguenay also sent a second plane to help.
Gough said the company’s helicopters would remain at Mistastin Lake for the remaining daylight hours on Tuesday. “At that point the search for the remaining four individuals will be handed over to the RCMP as a missing persons case, as per our normal procedures for these types of unfortunate incidents,” he said
The pilot was among those confirmed dead. Tremblay said he was 61 years old, had been with the company since 2011 and was “well-experienced,” with over 20,000 flight hours.
The names and nationalities of the seven people aboard the plane have not yet been released, but authorities were in the process of notifying the next-of-kin, Gough said. The Canadian Transportation Safety Board has been notified and will conduct an investigation.
(Reporting by Moira Warburton; Editing by Chris Reese and Leslie Adler)