No Survivors in Antarctic Plane Crash

The wreckage of a Twin Otter aircraft that had gone missing in the Antarctic has been found—and there is no hope that any of the three Canadian crew members are still alive.

The plane, which was to have been used as part of Italy’s polar research program, crashed on 23 January but bad weather prevented rescuers from reaching it. At about 6:15 GMT on Saturday, two helicopter crews finally surveyed the crash site from the air and discovered that the aircraft wreckage is on a very steep slope at a height of 3900 meters. It lies close to the summit of Mount Elizabeth in the Queen Alexandra mountain range, some 700 kilometers from both the South Pole and McMurdo Station, a U.S. research center.

The plane "appears to have made a direct impact that was not survivable," the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ), which has led the search, said in a statement on its Web site yesterday. Why the plane crashed is still unclear. "It has been [a] difficult operation in challenging conditions but we remained hopeful of a positive result," said RCCNZ search coordinator Tracy Brickles. "Our thoughts are now with the families of the crewmen."

The Unified Incident Command, a joint unit of the United States Antarctic Program and Antarctica New Zealand, is now planning a mission to recover the bodies, RCCNZ said today, "which is expected to be a difficult undertaking due to the remote and difficult access to the site of the crash."

*Correction 11:20 a.m., 28 January: The spelling of RCCNZ search coordinator Tracy Brickles's name has been corrected.