FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. - One of two people killed in a helicopter crash in northern Alberta Wednesday was conducting research into caribou populations.
Kristina Norstrom, a wildlife biologist with Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, was one of two who died in the crash, a provincial official confirmed Thursday.
The pilot of the helicopter was also killed. A second passenger, provincial employee and University of Alberta biology researcher Simon Slater, was injured in the crash and taken to hospital.
The scientists were collecting radio collars that had fallen off caribou in the Birch Mountain area northwest of Fort McMurray.
"It's surveying work, to count numbers," said department spokeswoman Jessica Potter.
Such flights are conducted periodically as part of the province's ongoing work on diminishing caribou herds in northern Alberta.
"Our staff are really missing a quite dedicated and very competent individual," Potter said. "She was very well-liked and respected by her colleagues."
Michael Morin, president of Aurora Helicopters Ltd., confirmed one of the company's aircraft went down around 11 a.m. Wednesday about 128 kilometres north Fort McMurray, Alta.
"We are deeply saddened by this event and feel the loss greatly," he said.
Both Premier Alison Redford and environment minister Diana McQueen offered condolences.
“The loss of a family member, coworker or friend is truly one of life’s biggest challenges, and I hope that those close to the individuals find comfort in friends and loved ones during this difficult time,” said Redford in a statement.
Said McQueen: “On behalf of the Government of Alberta, I offer my deepest sympathies to those affected by this tragedy. My heart goes out to the families of both individuals, including their work families who now grieve for their colleagues.
Transportation Safety Board investigators were expected to arrive at the remote and heavily wooded area on Thursday.
Aurora Helicopters, the parent company of Wood Buffalo Helicopters, says it has operated in the area for more than 25 years.
The company's website says it offers services including helicopter tours, support for the energy industry, pipeline and environmental monitoring and wildfire fighting services.
It operates a fleet of helicopters including Bell 206 Jet Rangers, as well as EC120B Calibri and AS350-B2 AStar Eurocopters.
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