Canadian helicopter pilot dies after falling into crevasse in Antarctica

A Canadian helicopter pilot plunged 20m down a crevasse after he landed on a remote ice shelf in Antarctica.
A Canadian helicopter pilot plunged 20m down a crevasse after he landed on a remote ice shelf in Antarctica.PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY (AFP) - A Canadian helicopter pilot died after plunging 20m down a crevasse after he landed on a remote ice shelf in Antarctica, Australian officials said on Tuesday (Jan 12)

Mr David Wood, 62, who was winched out of the deep crack by specialist officers from a nearby Australian scientific research station in a "difficult" rescue, fell in about 4pm local time after stepping out of his helicopter on the West Ice Shelf at a fuel depot site.

Mr Wood was flown by helicopter to a medical facility at the station in critical condition, where he was attended by specialists on station and in Australia via telemedicine.

"Mr Wood was a respected colleague and friend to many in the Australian Antarctic program, with which he has been involved for a number of years," the Australian Antarctic Division said in a statement announcing the death and sending condolences to his family.

Mr Wood had flown to the remote site some 90 nautical miles north-east of Australia's Davis station as part of a routine operation to drop off fuel, the Australian Antarctic Division said, adding that he had "considerable Antarctic experience".

After disembarking on Monday night, he fell into the crevasse.

Another pilot, who was in a separate helicopter and unable to help, flew back to Davis station - about a 45 minute flight away - and returned with three specialist officers, one of whom entered the crevasse and winched the injured man out, the Division's director Nick Gales told reporters in Tasmania.

Mr Gales said the West Ice Shelf was a very remote part of the eastern Antarctic region, with general working conditions on the frozen continent "always very dangerous and especially in the remote field".

He added that Mr Wood, who is employed by a helicopter firm working with the Australia's Antarctic programme, was in the crevasse for two hours before being rescued.

Davis is the southernmost of Australia's three Antarctic stations, which also include Casey and Mawson, along with a sub-Antarctic station at Macquarie Island.

About 30 nations operate permanent research stations in Antarctica including the US, Russia, Australia, Britain, France and Argentina.