Antarctic crash plane too dangerous to recover, say officials
Recovery of remains delayed until Antarctic research season in October
The Canadian Press
Posted: Jan 27, 2013 9:24 AM MT
Last Updated: Jan 28, 2013 6:22 PM MT
The wreckage of a Canadian plane which crashed in Antarctica is too dangerous to remove because it is embedded in snow and ice on a steep mountain slope, officials say.
The U.S. Antarctic Program and Antarctica New Zealand have decided to recall the search and rescue teams which have been in the area.
The plane, operated by Calgary-based Kenn Borek Air, was reported missing after it failed to reach its destination on Wednesday.
Search crews in aircraft spotted the wreckage on a steep slope near the summit of Mount Elizabeth on the Queen Alexandra range, but New Zealand officials said the impact appears to have been direct and would not have been survivable for the three crew members on board.
'There is a path that they actually sort of follow through. And it looks like the pilot made a turn too early.'—Chris Henshaw, New Zealand Rescue Co-Ordination Centre
Search teams were able to recover some material from the exposed tail of the plane, including the cockpit voice recorder. Officials say that could provide investigators with more information about the crash.
They were not able to access and recover the bodies of the crew.
"With the advent of the Antarctic winter, and the generally poor weather conditions at the crash site, any renewed effort to recover the remains will need to wait until the next Antarctic research season," said Antarctica New Zealand.
The next research season starts in October.
Plane may have turned too early
The plane appears to have been on course but may have turned too early while flying through a mountain range, says an official with the agency that confirms the aircraft has been found.
Chris Henshaw, a search and rescue officer with the New Zealand Rescue Co-Ordination Centre, says the wreckage of the Twin Otter lies along the route the plane was intending to fly between the South Pole and an Italian base in Antarctica's Terra Nova Bay.
"From looking at the maps, it is a logical route for it to fly through the mountain range," Henshaw said about the location of the crash.The pilot has been identified by friends as Bob Heath of Inuvik, N.W.T. (Courtesy Lucy Heath)
"There is a path that they actually sort of follow through. And it looks like the pilot made a turn too early. We don't know at this stage," he added.
New Zealand officials say the next of kin of the three men have been informed.
The pilot has been identified by friends as Bob Heath of Inuvik while media reports have identified a second crew member as Mike Denton, a newlywed from Calgary whose photographs of planes appear on the Kenn Borek website.
The third crew member had not yet been identified.
Earlier, a news release from the New Zealand Rescue Co-ordination Centre had said the recovery effort would be led by the Unified Incident Command, which is a joint unit of the United States Antarctica Programme and Antarctica New Zealand's incident management unit.
The release said the mission was expected to be difficult. The site is at an elevation of 3,900 metres. The intention was to return the men's bodies to New Zealand and repatriate them to Canada, the news release stated.
Diane Ablonczy, minister of state of foreign affairs, issued a statement Saturday saying she was saddened by the crash and offering condolences to the families of the three Canadians.
"On behalf of Canada, I sincerely thank the New Zealand, U.S., Italian and civilian search and rescue teams for the valiant efforts they have made over the last several days to locate the missing plane," her statement said.
"Canadian officials will continue to work closely with local authorities in New Zealand and stand ready to provide any needed consular assistance to the families."
Investigators trying to reach site
Julie Leroux of the Transportation Safety Board said that since the Twin Otter was operated by a Canadian company, officials here have already started working on a probe into the crash.
Leroux said Canadian investigators have collected data and conducted interviews.
"The Transportation Safety Board is waiting for more information to determine our next step," Leroux said Saturday, speaking from Gatineau, Que., where the board is based.
An emergency locator beacon had been detected coming from the crash site early on, but rescue teams were hampered by bad weather that made it difficult for planes flying over the area to see anything.
On Friday, a break in the weather allowed rescuers to set up a forward base at Beardmore Glacier, about 50 kilometres from the crash site, where there is a landing strip and a fuel depot.
A statement on the Kenn Borek Air website said visual contact with the wreckage was first made by a C-130 Hercules aircraft of the New York Air National Guard, and the sighting was later confirmed by another Twin Otter deployed by the airline.
Kenn Borek Air, which is also a fixture in Canada's North, has been sending planes to Antarctica for the past 28 years.
Heath has been described as a highly experienced pilot by friends.
Fellow pilot Sebastian Seykora said Heath had been flying in Antarctica for at least a decade.With files from CBC News
Latest Edmonton News Headlines
- Students and education officials react to EPSB budget
- Impending cuts to staffing facing Edmonton Public Schools has parents, students and teachers worried. more »
- Preventative health care for unhealthy could save billions
- Billions of dollars could be saved in Canada's health-care system with the introduction of preventative programs that focus on those individuals in poor health, says a study by the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary. more »
- Ex-Rexall bartender in court for alleged theft
- The man accused of stealing more than $700,000 while working at Rexall Place made his first court appearance in Edmonton Wednesday. more »
- Council votes to expropriate City Centre Airport land
- Edmonton has taken another step towards redeveloping the City Centre Airport into a new neighbourhood. more »
Top News Headlines
- Sopranos star James Gandolfini dies in Italy
- James Gandolfini, whose portrayal of a brutal, emotionally delicate mob boss in HBO's 'The Sopranos' helped create one of TV's greatest drama series and turned the mobster stereotype on its head, died Wednesday in Italy. He was 51. more »
- B.C. First Nation sets fires to save bison
- A First Nation band is reviving the age-old practice of controlled burning in order to improve the health of forests and restore the population of the wood bison in a corner of northeastern B.C. more »
- Canada buys rare War of 1812 collection for $573K
- The government of Canada was the winning bidder for a large collection of letters, maps and other papers that once belonged to Sir John Sherbrooke, the lieutenant-governor of Nova Scotia who conquered Maine for the British during the War of 1812. The collection sold for $573,000 at auction in London. more »
- Bob Rae quits as MP in 'very emotional' decision
- Bob Rae, who has represented the Toronto Centre riding for the Liberals since 2008, is stepping down as a Member of Parliament to devote more time to his work as a negotiator for First Nations in Northern Ontario. more »
- $23,000 in roaming charges 'insane,' says Edmonton woman
- Edmonton places moratorium on body rub shops
- Zama spill site shows brown trees, 3 containment sites
- 30,000 Canadians are homeless every night
- Man charged in connection with 2 Edmonton homicides
- Amber Alert ends after infant girl located by Edmonton police
- AHS to reverse controversial home care decisions
- End of Alberta policy separating seniors from family lauded
- RCMP identify remains found at Enoch Cree Nation