POLITICS

5 survivors of air crash in N.W.T. say thanks to rescuers, first responders

11/25/2014 06:59 EST | Updated 01/25/2015 05:59 EST
FORT SIMPSON, N.W.T. - Five people who survived a plane crash in the Northwest Territories have made their first public statements.

Doris Erasmus, Ronnie Antoine, Roy Klondike, Phillip Betthale, and Laura Diamond C say in a statement that the crash on Great Slave Lake on Nov. 20 was "horrific" and traumatic."

The Air Tindi Cessna 208 Caravan declared an emergency when its engine quit in icy conditions after leaving Yellowknife for Fort Simpson, N.W.T.

The plane landed about 40 kilometres west of the city on the north arm of the lake.

The survivors say they survived by working together and using traditional survival skills.

The five thanked everyone for their prayers and the "unselfish" acts of the rescue team and first responders in rescuing them, and asked for privacy so they can heal from emotional and physical injuries.

"We want to thank everyone at this time for the prayers and concern and love that was pouring into our families who anxiously waited at home. When we decide to address this with the public we will be notifying the media via press release.

"We have much love and support throughout Dene Nene which helps us during our journey to healing."

After receiving a mayday distress call around 7:15 a.m., the military sent a Royal Canadian Air Force Hercules aircraft with search-and-rescue technicians on board to the area from Winnipeg.

Other aircraft couldn't immediately respond from Yellowknife due to bad weather. Yellowknife reported periods of snow, freezing drizzle and temperatures of -10 C.

RCMP were the first to reach the plane in an Argo all-terrain vehicle. Helicopters finally reached the area around 11:30 a.m.

RCMP Cpl. Todd Scaplen said the survivors had huddled for hours around a campfire they built on a nearby island to ward off the cold.