Manitoba helicopter pilot David Wood dies in Antarctica

A helicopter pilot who lived in Manitoba has died in Antarctica while working for an Australian company, officials confirm.

Wood, 62, was piloting helicopter delivering fuel to depot northeast of Australia's Davis research station

A remote ice shelf near Australia's Davis research station was the area where David Wood, who lives in Canada, was injured in an accident before he died, says the Department of the Environment's Australian Antarctic division.

A helicopter pilot who lived in Manitoba has died in Antarctica while working for an Australian company, officials confirm.

David Wood, 62, was "injured in an incident on a remote ice shelf near Australia's Davis research station," a release issued by the Environment Department's Australian Antarctic division said.

A friend of his said it's a shame that a skilled helicopter pilot who never crashed in more than 30 years of flying has died in a freak fall.

Bruno Meili of Fireweed Helicopters in Whitehorse said Wood spent most summers flying charters and fighting forest fires in northern Canada.

Wood travelled on days off to be with his wife and children in Winnipeg Beach and had grown children living in Australia, Meili told The Canadian Press.

David Wood, 62, had more than 30 years of experience as a pilot, working extensively in both the Antarctic and the Arctic. (James Moloney/Australian government)

The Australian Antarctic Division said in a statement that Wood was working for Australian company Helicopter Resources at the time of the accident.

Wood was piloting one of two helicopters delivering fuel to a depot on the West Ice Shelf about 160 kilometres northeast of the research station on Monday night, the Australian release said.

After sling-dropping the fuel drums, the two pilots landed to retrieve the equipment. Wood got out of his helicopter and fell into a crevasse. 

"The second pilot was not able to assist," said the division. "He made radio contact with Davis station and flew back to the station for help, a flight of around 45 minutes."

Wood lay at the bottom of the crevasse — some 20 metres down — for about three hours. A search-and-rescue team was able to haul him up and fly him back to Davis station.

Wood was flown by helicopter to the medical facility at Davis station in critical condition. He received care from both specialists at the station and via telemedicine from Australia but died, the release said. 

Nick Gales, director of the Australian Antarctic Division, extended condolences to Wood's family. He said Wood was a respected colleague and friend, and had more than 30 years of experience as a pilot, working extensively in both the Antarctic and the Arctic. 

The division was in contact with Wood's family and was working to "return his body to Australia at the earliest opportunity," the release said. 

Global Affairs Canada (formerly foreign affairs) said the Canadian government is providing assistance to Wood's family.

"Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the Canadian citizen who passed away in Antarctica," a federal government spokesperson said.

With files from The Canadian Press


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.