A medical helicopter operated by Ornge, which provides air ambulance and related services to the Canadian province of Ontario, crashed on 31 May, resulting in the deaths of all four crew members; no patients were onboard the aircraft. Ornge stated that the Sikorsky S-76 helicopter, which was manufactured in 1980, departed from its Moosonee base at around midnight on 31 May, en route to Attawapiskat to pick up a patient. Contact was lost with the aircraft shortly after take-off.
Immediately, overdue and missing aircraft procedures were put into action, said Ornge. The Joint Rescue Coordination Centre at Canadian Forces Base Trenton was contacted and a search and rescue aircraft was sent to the Moosonee area, where it located the downed helicopter. Ornge estimated the time of the accident as 00:11 hrs.
Ornge confirmed the names of the deceased crew as pilots captain Don Filliter and first officer Jacques Dupuy, and primary care flight paramedics Dustin Dagenais and Chris Snowball.
In a statement, Dr Andrew McCallum, president and CEO of Ornge, expressed the organisation’s sincere condolences to the friends and families of those who died. He added: “Each [of the men who lost their lives] has been a valued member of our team, and words cannot express the immense loss not only to Ornge, but most importantly, to their family and friends … Their lives were lost in serving the public, and we owe a deep debt of gratitude.” McCallum stated that Filliter was a respected pilot with more than 20 years of flying experience who joined Ornge in March. Dupuy joined Ornge in August 2012 and had been flying since 1996. Dagenais had been a paramedic since 2007 and had served with Ornge since November 2011, as had Snowball.
Explaining how Ornge’s services were affected by the accident, McCallum explained that although operations with its PC-12 fixed-wing aircraft and AW139 helicopter continued as normal, its Sikorsky rotor-wing operations in Thunder Bay and Kenora were taken off-line pending preliminary information from Canada’s Transportation Safety Board.