27 Jan 2013

Attempt underway to recover bodies from Antarctica

5:03 pm on 27 January 2013

An attempt is being made to recover the bodies of three Canadians who were on board a plane that crashed in Antarctica.

Contact was lost with a Twin Otter plane with three Canadians on board, at 10pm on Wednesday. The wreckage was spotted from helicopters at about 7.15pm (NZT) on Saturday. There were no survivors.

Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand said the wreckage was 3.9km above sea level at the northern end of the Queen Alexandra Range, about 670km from Scott Base.

It said it has moved into a recovery phase and the intention is to return the bodies to New Zealand before repatriating them to Canada.

It said the wreckage of the plane is on a very steep slope close to the summit of Mt Elizabeth and is difficult to access.

But it said on Sunday afternoon that weather conditions were good with light winds and scattered cloud.

The centre said the next of kin of the three crew members, including pilot Bob Heath, have been informed.

The recovery operation is being led by the United States' Antarctica Programme and Antarctica New Zealand.

Antarctica has no law or police, so in this case countries with a presence in Antarctica sort out the recovery among themselves.

The Canadian government will be investigating the crash but has not yet said whether it will help with the recovery.