YELLOWKNIFE - The pilot and passengers on a small plane that made a forced landing Thursday in bad weather on the ice of Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories have been rescued.
RCMP Cpl. Todd Scaplen said no one was seriously hurt and the six were flown out by helicopters to Yellowknife after huddling for hours around a campfire they built on a nearby island to ward off the cold.
"When people arrived on scene they were in very good spirits considering the fact they had been in a plane that had just landed on the ice," Scaplen said.
The military said the Air Tindi Cessna 208 Caravan declared an emergency Thursday morning 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. Initially the military said there were seven on board.
Air Tindi praised the pilot and the first responders.
"Under very difficult weather conditions the Caravan pilot was able to land the aircraft safely and evacuate the passengers," the company said in a release.
"We want to thank all of the first responders from the RCMP, the Canadian Forces and the Stanton Territorial Hospital for their efforts in this very positive outcome."
Al Martin, president of Air Tindi, said in a telephone interview late Thursday that three other similar aircraft in its fleet will be grounded until they have more information about what happened.
"The type of aircraft involved we're not going to be operating until we go back through what may or may not have happened and look at further controls, certainly in the short term, just to make sure we've got this issue covered as far as we can...
"It's a precaution because we don't know all the details of what's happened yet, so it makes sense to be precautionary and just eliminate that in the short term."
Martin said the airline is using different aircraft in place of those grounded aircraft.
After receiving a mayday distress call, 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. RCMP were the first to reach the plane in an Argo all-terrain vehicle. Helicopters finally reached the area around 11:30 a.m.
Yellowknife reported periods of snow, freezing drizzle and temperatures of -10 C.
The Transportation Safety Board sent a team of investigators to determine what happened.
A preliminary report to Transport Canada said the plane took off at 6:44 a.m. for Fort Simpson. About 22 minutes later the pilot requested clearance to return to Yellowknife due to icing. About 13 minutes later the pilot then made a mayday distress call due to severe icing. The plane went down about one minute later.
The helicopters that flew the group from the plane to Yellowknife are from Air Tindi's sister company, Great Slave Helicopters.
RCMP said the Cessna suffered damage to its landing gear but was largely intact.
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