Six dead after plane carrying Rio Tinto workers to diamond mine crashes in Canada

Six dead after plane carrying Rio Tinto workers to diamond mine crashes in Canada
The open pit stands at the Diavik Diamond Mine, owned by Rio Tinto Plc and Dominion Diamond Corp., in the North Slave Region of the Northwest Territories, Canada, on Monday, May 2, 2016.Getty Images

Six people have died after a plane carrying workers to a Rio Tinto diamond mine in Canada’s Northwest Territories crashed, officials said.

The small Jetstream aircraft was on its way to the company’s Diavik mine and crashed shortly after take-off.

One survivor was airlifted to a hospital in Yellowknife, the Northwest Territories coroner’s office said.

Rio Tinto said it is working closely with authorities as they investigate the crash.

“We are absolutely devastated by this news,” Rio Tinto’s CEO Jakob Stausholm said in a statement.

Four of the fatalities were passengers, and two others were crew members with Northwestern Air, the Northwest Territories coroner’s office said in a statement on Wednesday.

The plane crashed near Fort Smith, a small town about 740 kilometres south of Yellowknife, north of the Alberta border.

Canada’s public broadcaster CBC reported that the plane crashed about 500 metres from the end of the Fort Smith Regional Airport’s runway. Joint Rescue Coordination Center Trenton said it lost contact with the plane shortly after take-off.

Rio Tinto’s Diavik Diamond Mine is about 300 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife. According to the company’s website, it has been in operation since 2003.

The incident has been “very devastating” for the close-knit community, said Fort Smith’s deputy mayor Dianna Korol.

“Everybody has a little piece — or somebody that they know,” Ms Korol told the CBC.

RJ Simpson, the premier of the Northwest Territories, offered his condolences to the victims’ families and friends.

“The impact of this incident is felt across the territory,” Mr Simpson said.

“The people we lost were not just passengers on a flight; they were neighbours, colleagues, friends and loved ones. Their stories and contributions to our communities will not be forgotten.”

Both the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada are investigating the crash.

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By David Ryckman