Three people are dead following the crash of an Air Saguenay plane into a Labrador lake on Monday night.
Jean Tremblay, the chief executive of Air Saguenay, confirmed the deaths on Tuesday morning and said the fate of four other people aboard is unclear.
"We don't know yet," Tremblay said. "We don't know who is missing and who is dead, for now. We're still hoping we will find some survivors."
The plane either crashed on landing or takeoff, Tremblay said, and was found submerged Mistastin Lake, about two kilometres off the shoreline.
The Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre (JRCC) in Halifax got a call at 11:30 p.m. AT that a de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver float plane was overdue.
Seven people were on board, heading from a fishing lodge at Crossroads Lake, near the Quebec border, to a remote camp on Mistastin Lake in northern Labrador.
– Jean Tremblay, CEO Air Saguenay, on fate of pilot
We're hoping that he's still alive, but for now we don't know
The group was scheduled to be back at Crossroads Lake by 6 p.m. AT Monday, but did not return. A Hercules airplane was put in the air as soon as the call came in to JRCC. The Hercules spotted the wreckage at 5 a.m. on Tuesday morning.
A fishing lodge has chartered a second plane to fly to Mistastin Lake to help with the search for possible survivors.
At 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday a military CH-149 Cormorant helicopter arrived at the scene to help in the the search.
An Armed Forces spokesperson said it's too early to make assumptions about the fate of the missing.
"We don't know that yet. We won't know until our guys are on the ground in the next little while and they do the search for any possible survivors," said Maj. Mark Gough.
Gough said later that Armed Forces helicopters will search the area until nightfall, at which point efforts will be handed over to the RCMP as a missing persons case.
CBC News and Radio-Canada had previously reported there were four deaths, based on information from Tremblay. He later said that was the information he had at the time, but it has since changed to three dead and four missing.
Experienced pilot used to the area
Tremblay said the airline is a tightly knit group, where the employees all know each other.
The pilot is a 61-year-old man with 20,000 hours of flying experience and at least six years of flying in and out of Mistastin Lake. It's not yet known if he is counted among the dead or missing.
"We're hoping that he's still alive, but for now we don't know," Tremblay said. "We're praying."
He was flying with four passengers and two fishing guides on board.
As of 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Gough said next of kin was contacted.
The cause of the crash is unknown, but officials with the Transportation Safety Board have been called in to investigate.
All DHC-2 Beaver aircraft were built between 1947 and 1967, but it's not clear how old this plane was.
It's the third fatal crash since 2010 of a Beaver belonging to Air Saguenay.
One crashed into a mountainside near Lake Péribonka, Que., in bad weather on July 16, 2010. Four of the six people on board were killed.
In 2015, an Air Saguenay flight crashed into a remote wooded area near Les Bergeronnes, Que., killing all six on board.
Tremblay said it's not a common part of flying, but an unfortunate reality that comes with the industry.
"It's always sad news when a crash happens."
An earlier version of this story reported incorrectly that four people were dead, based on information from the Armed Forces via Air Saguenay chief executive Jean Tremblay. In fact, three people are dead and four are missing.Jul 16, 2019 1:29 PM NT
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