Recovery operation planned in Antarctica

27 January 2013, 1.00pm

The search and rescue mission involving a Twin Otter aircraft missing in Antarctica since Wednesday with three crew on board has moved into a recovery phase, after wreckage of the plane was located on Saturday.

The aircraft wreckage is on a very steep slope, close to the summit of Mt Elizabeth at the northern end of the Queen Alexandra Range – halfway between the South Pole and McMurdo Station (approximately 680km or 370 nautical miles in each direction). It appears to have made a direct impact that was not survivable.

No details are available on the cause of the crash.

The next of kin have been informed.

Two helicopters, including a Southern Lakes helicopter on contract to Scott Base, reached the site at around 7.15pm (NZ time) yesterday, after travelling from McMurdo Base to a forward base at Beardmore Glacier, about 50km from the crash site. They were able to survey the site briefly and identify the plane wreckage.

The Unified Incident Command, a joint United States Antarctica Programme and Antarctica New Zealand incident management unit, is now leading the recovery effort.

The unit is currently planning its approach to the recovery mission, which is expected to be a difficult undertaking due to the remote and difficult access to the site of the crash, at a height of 3,900m (13,000 feet). Weather conditions in the area are currently good, with light winds and scattered cloud.

The intention is to return the men’s bodies to New Zealand and, from there, repatriate them to Canada.
                             
RCCNZ Operations Manager John Seward said all those involved had worked hard on the rescue mission in challenging conditions since Wednesday and it had been a real team effort. He said hopes were held throughout the operation for a positive outcome for the three Canadians, who were very experienced and well-resourced.

RCCNZ’s thoughts are with the families of the crew.

NOTE TO MEDIA:
The timing of the recovery operation is dependent on conditions. An update will only be issued when this operation has been carried out. We appreciate the desire for information, but repeated requests for updates can add unnecessarily to the burden on operational staff.

For further information contact:
Maritime New Zealand Media Line
Phone 04 499 7318


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