Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavut August 20, 2012 - 6:40 am

Aug. 20: one year after the Resolute Bay air disaster

Anniversary of Nunavut disaster brings gestures to honour the dead, a new research vessel, a monument, moment of silence

The former
The former "Ocean Alliance," seen here at dock last September in Cambridge Bay, has a new name: the Martin Bergmann, to honour the director of Polar Continental Shelf Project, who died Aug. 20, 2011, when First Air Flight 6560 crashed into a hillside near Resolute Bay. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

(updated at 11:25 a.m.)

On the first anniversary of the Aug. 20 crash of First Air flight 6560, a 19-metre (64-foot) research vessel, now in Cambridge Bay, is set to be officially renamed “The Martin Bergmann”  after Martin Bergmann, the director of the Polar Continental Shelf Project, who died in the crash.

Tha’s among the announcements expected as Prime Minister Stephen Harper starts his seventh tour of the Arctic. This year Harper plans to visit the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, northern Manitoba and Cambridge Bay in Nunavut — a community he intended to visit in 2010, but never reached due to weather.

On this tour, Harper is due into Cambridge Bay on Aug. 22, where he’ll greet members of the community at a feast, with expected announcements on the Canadian High Arctic Research Station, set to open in Cambridge Bay in 2017, and the new research vessel to take place Aug. 23.

A private, non-profit foundation, the Arctic Research Foundation, acquired the fishing trawler, which will be based out of Cambridge Bay, and managed by former colleagues of Bergmann, 55, who was passionate about the Arctic and Arctic science.

The former fishing boat contains a laboratory, winches that can be used to lower scientific equipment in and out of the water, as well as more food and fuel storage space, water makers, and enough power so that the boat can be self-sufficient for up to three weeks at a time.

The Martin Bergmann, with a capacity of 12 passengers and crew members, is much smaller than the Coast Guard’s research icebreaker, the 98-metre (320 ft) Amundsen, which is out of commission this year and undergoing engine repairs.

The Martin Bergmann’s shallow draft means it will be much easier to manoeuvre — a plus for fisheries research and the underwater activities of Parks Canada, which is expected to play a large role in the research vessel’s operations.

Last Aug. 20, First Air Boeing 737-200C crashed into a hillside close to the Resolute Bay airport Aug. 20, in one of the worst air disasters ever recorded in Nunavut.

After the crash, the three survivors — Robin Wyllie, 48, Nicole Williamson, 23, and Gabrielle Aleeasuk Pelky, seven — were first transported that day to Qikiqtani General Hospital in Iqaluit.

Wyllie, Williamson, Aleeasuk Pelky (represented by her mother Brenda), and the families of eight people who died: Bergmann, Cheyenne Mary-Jane Eckalook, seven, Lise Linda Lamoureux, 23, Steven Michael Girouard, 38, Randolph Alexander Reid, 56, Michael Rideout, 65, Raymond Pitre, 39, and Clarence Tibbo, 49, as well as the four crew members who perished, First Air flight attendants Ann Marie Chassie, 42, and Uta Merritt, 55, and for First Air pilot Blair Rutherford, 48, and co-pilot David Henry Hare, 35, have filed five statements of claim against the various parties, which include the Department of National Defense, Nav Canada and First Air.

These lawsuits were filed but the Transportation Safety Board investigators has yet to explain what caused one of worst air disasters ever recorded in Nunavut.

As part of the continuing investigation into what caused the crash, TSB investigators have classified the incident as a “controlled flight into terrain” accident.

That means the aircraft was flown unintentionally into an obstacle or terrain, usually without prior awareness by the flight crew.

The TSB progress report notes that when the crew initiated the go-around just before impact, the aircraft’s landing gear was down and locked, the plane’s speed was 157 knots and the final landing checklist was complete.

TSB investigators continue to look at the aircraft’s flight and navigational instruments, but a preliminary examination of the Boeing 737 revealed no pre-impact problems and showed the plane’s engines were operating at the time of the accident. The final report will look at the causes and contributing factors that led the crash, but its purpose is not to assign fault.

Many of the family members of those who died on Aug. 20 are in Resolute Bay for the first anniversary of the crash, where a monument honouring their memory will be unveiled. First Air plans to hold a memorial service, while all its employees will observe a moment of silence at 11:42 a.m., when Flight 6560 slammed into the hillside near the Resolute Bay airport.

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