Coroner’s service says there are fatalities after charter plane crashes in northwest Canada

FORT SMITH, Northwest Territories (AP) — A coroner's service in Canada's Northwest Territories said there are fatalities from Tuesday's plane crash near the community of Fort Smith.

The Northwest Territories Coroner’s Service did not say how many have died or give further details, saying it must first notify next of kin.

There was no word yet how many people were on board the plane, a British Aerospace Jetstream registered to Northwestern Air Lease, according to the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.

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

Mining company Rio Tinto said a number of its staff were on the plane headed to its Diavik Diamond Mine, 300 kilometers (about 180 miles) northeast of Yellowknife.

“As a company we are absolutely devastated by this news and offering our full support to our people and the community who are grieving today,” said a statement.

The Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority in Fort Smith, Northwest Territories said it has activated its mass casualty protocol after the morning crash.

The town of Fort Smith is about 2,100 kilometers (1,300 miles) northeast of Vancouver, British Columbia near the border between Alberta and the Northwest Territories.

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.

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

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

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