Antarctic search moves into recovery phase

Last updated 14:55 27/01/2013
Rescuers in Antarctica have located the wreckage of a plane piloted by Canadian extreme polar pilot Bob Heath.
LOST: Pilot Bob Heath and his two passengers are dead.

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

No details are available on the cause of the crash but RCCNZ Operations Manager John Seward said the plane appears to have made a direct impact that was not survivable.

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 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.

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- Fairfax Media

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