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'No survivors have been located': 3 believed dead in B.C. float plane crash

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Three people are believed dead following a float plane crash Wednesday northwest of Port Hardy, B.C.

According to Capt. Chelsea Dubeau, spokesperson for Maritime Forces Pacific, a witness reported the plane crashed into Strachan Bay shortly after takeoff at 12:52 p.m.

The RCMP say two passengers and a pilot were on board when the plane went down.

Mounties were called to the scene at 1:20 p.m. after receiving a notice from the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre that said a Cessna float plane had gone down in the bay.

Dubeau says multiple search assets responded to the incident, including a Cormorant helicopter out of 19 Wing Comox, a Canadian Coast Guard helicopter, a Transport Canada surveillance plane and a coast guard lifeboat out of Port Hardy.

"No survivors have been located and the plane has been presumed to have sunk," Cpl. Alex Bérubé, spokesperson for the B.C. RCMP, said in a release Thursday morning.

"The RCMP and the Transportation Safety Board are both conducting parallel investigations to determine what may have caused the plane to go down."

Dubeau says the coast guard helicopter was the first to arrive on scene and spotted debris and an oil slick, followed by Transport Canada’s surveillance aircraft that assisted with infrared sensors.

"SAR Tecs [search and rescue technicians] were lowered to the lifeboat to assess the scene along with the boat crew and after assessment of the crash site it was determined that further extraction efforts were beyond the capabilities of those on scene and RCMP were advised and took over," Dubeau said Thursday.

The RCMP's marine unit and dive team were en route to the scene Thursday morning.

PLANE BELONGS TO COAL HARBOUR COMPANY

Joel Eilertsen, the owner of the float plane company Air Cab out of Coal Harbour, B.C., confirmed Thursday the aircraft belongs to his company. 

He said he has had ongoing concerns about two weather stations that companies like his rely on that have been out of service for some time.

"Sartine Island has been out for two and a half years and Herbert Island, which is extremely critical, has been out for just about a month," Eilertsen said.

"All we had was the airport conditions to fly on and winds were between 15 and 20 knots."

The Air Cab owner says he has spoken at length with Transport Canada to try to get some movement on the problem.

The company said the passengers who were on board the aircraft worked for Mill & Timber Products, a private forestry company. 

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact the Port Hardy RCMP at 250-949-6335.

Strachan Bay is approximately 50 kilometres north of Port Hardy.

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