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Fort Smith hospital readies mass casualty protocol after passenger plane crash

Police officials have not said how many people were on the plane that crashed
Fort Smith Health Centre in Northwest Territories, near the border of Alberta. (Google Maps)

A health centre in the Northwest Territories activated its mass casualty protocol Tuesday after a passenger plane crashed near a community along the Alberta boundary.

The Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority did not provide any details about the crash or how many people were involved, citing patient confidentiality.

However, in a news release it said the protocol would be in place at the Fort Smith Health Centre indefinitely.

“We are working closely with other emergency response agencies,” it said.

A mass casualty protocol is initiated when the number of patients and treatment required could exhaust a facility’s available resources to respond and manage their day-to-day operations.

Police officials have not said how many people were on the plane that crashed.

“The RCMP is providing assistance to Transport Canada, who has the mandate to investigate any aviation incidents, and the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre, who has the mandate of search-and-rescue for aviation incidents,” Insp. Dean Riou, with RCMP media relations, said in an email.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada said the plane that crashed was a British Aerospace Jetstream registered to Northwestern Air Lease.

The airline’s website said it has two of the planes in its fleet that can carry 19 passengers.

A representative for the company did not provide an immediate comment but confirmed it was a charter plane.

The safety board is sending investigators to the scene.

Joint Rescue Coordination Centre Trenton confirmed the military responded when the plane lost contact shortly after taking off near Fort Smith, a town about 740 kilometres south of Yellowknife.

The Air Force, RCMP and Canadian Rangers were all involved in the search-and-rescue, said David Lavallee, a public affairs officer with Search and Rescue Region Trenton.

Three Air Force squadrons provided air support, while police and rangers conducted a search on the ground, he said.

Lavallee said a CC-130H Hercules aircraft travelled to the site from Calgary and a CC-130J Hercules was sent from Trenton, Ont. A Twin Otter aircraft was sent from Yellowknife.

“Canadian Rangers located the aircraft near the Slave River, and (search-and-rescue) … parachuted into the site,” said Lavallee.