Search and rescue crews have called off efforts to recover the bodies of three Canadian men after an Antarctic plane crash last week, saying the wreckage is too unstable.
Crews were able to land near the crash site Sunday in a remote, mountainous region and reached the plane by foot. The tail of the Twin Otter, owned by Calgary-based Kenn Borek Air Ltd., was accessible but the plane’s front is buried in ice and snow on a steep slope.
Search crews recovered the cockpit voice recorder, which will help determine the cause of the crash, but weren’t able to recover the bodies. They will remain in the wreckage until at least the next research season, which begins in October.
“Kenn Borek is aware of this decision on the search and rescue, and has concurred with it,” said Peter West, a spokesman for the American National Science Foundation, which was co-leading the search-and-rescue effort with Antarctica New Zealand, which manages New Zealand’s efforts in the region. The crews at the crash site Sunday said more equipment could be needed to extricate the bodies.
“They might require more in the way of equipment to do what they need to do,” Mr. West said. “So what will happen is the bodies will remain with the aircraft, and we will attempt to go back during the next Antarctic research season, which begins in October, to try and do a retrieval of that.”
One pilot has been identified as Bob Heath, a veteran pilot from the Northwest Territories. His family has declined to comment.
Another crewman was identified as Mike Denton, a newlywed from Calgary described in one New Zealand report as an aerial photographer. The third has been identified in media reports as Perry Andersen of Collingwood, Ont.
The three-person crew was “very experienced and well-resourced,” New Zealand officials said.
The plane crashed Wednesday New Zealand time, hitting a steep slope about 680 kilometres from the South Pole. The plane “made a direct impact,” Antarctica New Zealand said in a statement.
“No signs of activity are evidence in the area surrounding the site, and it appears that the impact was not survivable,” Kenn Borek Air Ltd., added.
The cause of the crash is unknown. It would be up to the Canadian Transportation Safety Board to investigate, but the agency hadn’t yet decided Sunday if it will.
“We are assessing right now. We are waiting for more details from the search and rescue team and all the organizations that are working,” spokeswoman Julie Leroux said. The TSB only investigates crashes when the results could “advance transport safety,” she said. “We haven’t deployed yet, and we don’t know if we will.”