|Two crew members are dead after a float plane crashed into a bustling residential area of Yellowknife. Police and emergency crews are seen responding to the scene on Thursday September 22, 2011. (John Doody, Special to QMI Agency)
EDMONTON — At least two people are dead and four others seriously injured after a float plane crashed between two buildings in Yellowknife Thursday afternoon.
First, the building shook. Then, there was a loud explosion.
When Debra Doody went outside the Dancing Moose Cafe in Old Town Yellowknife, she saw what was left of the Twin Otter float plane lying on an angle in the parking lot across the street.
She said the windows in the office building across the street were smashed, and three cars were crushed by the plane which suffered significant damage to the front end.
Civilians in the area, which is lined with businesses and homes, quickly tended to the aid of the injured passengers. Doody provided blankets and towels.
"It's just very upsetting. People were crying in pain," said Doody, who noted the plane was 50 feet away from her bed and breakfast and cafe, which had about six customers inside at the time.
"It's really amazing that it didn't do more damage than it did. I think God protected us for sure. Our lives were spared."
Doody watched in disbelief as one man cut one of the pilots from the wreckage, while another person dragged out the other pilot and administered CPR for about 15 minutes.
The two pilots died in the crash, said Wray Tsuji, lead investigator with the Transportation Safety Board, and four of the seven passengers on board were critically injured. Investigators have been deployed to determine the cause.
Emergency crews were called to the scene around 1:15 p.m.
According to Doody and other witnesses, the plane clipped some power lines as it came crashing down in front of the cafe and the Geo-sciences building, which contains businesses on the main level and condos on the upper floors.
She said the float base operations are further down the street from where the crash occurred, and noted it was a very windy day.
Yellowknife RCMP Spokeswoman Const. Kathy Law believes the plane -- a De Havillane Twin Otter belonging to Arctic Sunwest Charters -- was coming in for landing when it crashed between the two buildings.
The company, which was officially established in 1993, declined to comment. Its website says it has a float base operating on the shores of Great Slave Lake in Yellowknife's Old Town.
John Doody rushed to the scene when his wife called and told him what happened.
He described the scene as chaotic, with emergency crews everywhere.
"It's a catastrophe," he said. "It's not something you want to see. It's a bit of a shocker."
The plane crash is the second to happen in the region in as many months.
On Aug. 20, a passenger jet carrying 15 people was travelling from Yellowknife when it crashed near Resolute Bay, Nunavut, killing 12 people and injuring three others.
Shane Keller works three blocks away from the plane crash in Yellowknife and flies often for business trips.
He admits he's a nervous flyer to begin with. Two plane crashes in the area now weighs heavily on his mind.
"It's freaky. Everybody is on edge right now," said Keller, whose amazed there wasn't more fatalities. "For a plane that size not to hit anything is a miracle."