Warning: This story contains details of the incident which readers may find disturbing
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) said the loss of an Air Tindi aircraft outside Whatì on Wednesday was "not survivable" as officials described the scene of the crash.
Investigators arrived by helicopter at the downed plane's location, in a forested area west of the north end of Marion Lake, on Thursday afternoon.
Two pilots were killed in the crash. The aircraft was not carrying passengers on its trip from Yellowknife to Whatì.
Jon Lee, the TSB's western regional manager, told Cabin Radio investigators were encountering "extreme difficulty in moving around the accident site" owing to deep snow in the area.
"Locating and identifying pieces right now is difficult," said Lee, describing a 300-metre footprint of wreckage at the site.
"The aircraft is extensively broken up in pieces. The aircraft accident was not survivable – the flight crew would have died during the impact."
Investigators are searching for the King Air 200's cockpit voice recorder and satellite tracking unit, which files the location of the aircraft to the company every two to five minutes and also records altitude, track, position, and groundspeed.
Lee said those two units would contain "crucial pieces of information" as his staff works to understand why the aircraft came down.
"The reality is, with that level of snow, there’s a high likelihood we’re not going to find all of the aircraft," said Lee.
"We may have to wait until spring, when the snow melts, in order to go back and get the remainder of the aircraft."
Investigators are working closely with the company, the families involved, and aircraft manufacturer Beechcraft, Lee said.
He estimates a public report on the accident will be available in about a year's time.
The identity of the pilots has not been made public by the airline.
On Thursday, Air Tindi president Al Martin said his employees were in "a lot of pain" at the loss of their colleagues.