No survivors from French helicopter crash in Antarctica

30th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

Australian rescuers on Saturday confirmed there were no survivors from a helicopter crash involving four Frenchmen in Antarctica.

"They have confirmed that all four on board didn't survive the impact of the crash and the French team are currently conducting recovery operations," an Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) spokeswoman told AFP.

The AS350 Squirrel helicopter went missing Thursday after taking off from the French research ship Astrolabe carrying a pilot, mechanic and two staff from the Dumont d'Urville French Antarctic research base.

A distress beacon was activated but heavy weather hampered search efforts. An Australian air force plane eventually spotted the wreckage on Friday, with three bodies sighted among the debris.

The AMSA spokeswoman said a French helicopter touched down at the crash site, 100 kilometres from the French base, on Saturday afternoon and an on-board doctor confirmed there had been no survivors.

Australian and American officials from McMurdo Base were assisting with the recovery of the bodies and wreckage, she added. Responsibility for the matter was expected to be transferred to the French authorities by evening.

Officials had held little hope for the men, with rescuers spying three bodies strewn among a large field of debris when the wreckage was first spotted Friday. AMSA had described it as an "unsurvivable" incident.

The helicopter was last observed at an altitude of just 29 feet (10 metres), travelling at only 20 knots (37 kilometres per hour), sparking initial hopes that it had decided to land due to the extremely low visibility.

© 2010 AFP

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