A University of Manitoba scientist David Barber said it could have been him on the helicopter that crashed in the Arctic Monday night, claiming the life of colleague Klaus Hochheim.

Barber, who is struggling to come to terms with the death of his long-time friend, said he and Hochheim had switched shifts just days earlier.

Barber returned to Winnipeg while Hochheim replaced him working on the northern research vessel CCGS Amundsen, a coast-guard ice breaker.

"I was doing exactly the same things he was doing just a few days earlier. So you could say it could've been me on that helicopter or you coulda said it should have been me," Barber said.

"It's very difficult to even talk about these kind of things."

300-arctic-crash-map

This map shows the location of the crash, about 600 kilometres west of Resolute, in the Northwest Passage north of Banks Island. (CBC)

Hochheim was one of three people who died in the crash. Marc Thibault, the commanding officer of the Amundsen and Daniel Dubé, the helicopter pilot, also died in the crash.

The helicopter, which was working from the Amundsen, was on a routine mission to check ice conditions at the time it went down in the McClure Straight in the Northwest Territories.

Hochheim, an experienced climatologist, was 55 years old and left behind a wife and three children. He had worked at the University of Manitoba's Centre for Earth Observation Science for the past 12 years, focusing on sea ice climatology and remote sensing in extreme conditions.

A memorial will be held at the university but no date has been set.

Flags are lowered on the campus.