Following the tragic float plane crash off northern Vancouver Island near Port Hardy, North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney is demanding the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to answer questions about the lack of maintenance on weather stations in the region.
In a letter to the ministers, as well as during the House of Commons question period, Blaney brought up the disrepair of the weather stations and their potential link to the plane crash.
“Tragically, three people lost their lives and their families are left to grieve their loved ones,” Blaney said. “The plane was piloted by Patrick Lehman, a skilled and beloved pilot from the region. The two passengers were being flown back to Port Hardy from a logging camp. This crash has had a tremendous impact on the community.”
Blaney noted that Joel Eilertsen, owner of Air Cab out of Coal Harbour, the company that operated the float plane, has written numerous letters to Transport Canada, raising the alarm about the disrepair of weather stations.
“Pilots rely on those weather stations to keep them aware of conditions, but some stations in the region have been out of operation for years while others work only periodically,” stated Blaney, adding she has “spoke with Mr. Eilertsen this week and learned that he has been advocating for years to have federal departments pay closer and better attention to the maintenance and upkeep of weather stations in the area.”
Blaney wrote in her letter that Eilertsen told her on the day of the accident there were six weather reporting stations that were not working: Estevan Point, Herbert Island, Sartine Island, East Dellwood, Bella Bella Airport and Cape St. James.
Among those, it was explained to her that Sartine is the most critical of the weather stations and it has reportedly not been working for more than two years.
“It is inexcusable that these important weather stations are in such disrepair, and that the pilots rely on private company webcams, that aren’t always up-to-date, for information,” Blaney added. “Please find a way to address and fix the situation immediately, or you will be risking the lives of more Canadians by your inaction.”
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