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Arctic plane crash report

Two and a half years ago, a Boeing 737 slammed into a hill near a remote Arctic airport, splitting into three pieces and flinging flaming wreckage across the rugged tundra.

Eight passengers and four crew members died. Three passengers miraculously survived.

The Transportation Safety Board is to release its long-awaited report Tuesday into what caused First Air flight 6560 to crash near Resolute, an Inuit hamlet in Nunavut.

An interim report by the board said the First Air plane had been preparing to land using its navigation instruments because the weather — fog, cloud and drizzling rain —was preventing the crew from seeing the landing strip.

That report said the crew aborted the landing two seconds before the plane crashed into the hill, about 1.6 kilometres from the runway.

Several lawsuits have already been filed over the disaster. The suits cast partial blame on the Canadian Forces, which had taken control over the small airport on the day of the crash, Aug. 20, 2011.

The military was holding an annual manoeuvre, one that ironically included a mock plane crash, and had established a temporary air traffic control tower to guide in all planes. The airport was normally an uncontrolled airspace and pilots navigated themselves onto the runway.

The suits claim the military did not have enough people on duty to handle the air traffic and those working the tower were not briefed or properly trained to navigate civilian planes.

The suits further detail how soldiers gave the First Air crew permission to land.

None of the allegations has been proven in court. There are statements of defence on file with the court, but staff said copies were not immediately available.

The Transportation Safety Board released aviation safety advisories last year describing how the military radar system was not in use the day of the crash. The advisories also said another plane had tried to land three minutes before the First Air jet and there "could have been risk of a mid-air collision."

The chartered plane was on a regular run from Yellowknife to Resolute. There were scientists on the plane along with staff heading back to work at a local inn and the inn owner's two young granddaughters. There was also a load of food.

Two geologists, Nicole Williamson and Robin Wyllie, and one of the children on board, seven-year old Gabrielle Pelky, made it out of the wreckage with broken bones. The military was so close to the crash site that it was able to quickly transport the survivors by helicopter to different hospitals.

Gabrielle's six-year-old sister, Cheyenne Eckalook, was among the dead.

Pilot Blair Rutherford, 48, from Leduc, Alta., co-pilot David Hare, 35, from Yellowknife, and flight attendants Anne Marie Chassie, 22, and Ute Merritt, both from Yellowknife, also died.

Martin Bergmann, 55, the Winnipeg-based director of Canada's Polar Continental Shelf Project was also killed, along with hotel workers Randolph Reid, 56, of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., Michael Rideout, 65, of Mount Pearl, N.L., Chesley Tibbo, 49, of Harbour Mille, N.L, Raymond Pitre, 39, of Bathurst, N.B., and Steven Girouard, 38, and his fiancee Lise Lamoureux, 23, also of Bathurst, N.B.

The Canadian Press

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