Search and Rescue is looking for a Twin Otter aircraft after its emergency transmitter was activated with three Canadians on board in Antarctica
CALGARY — It could be days before the bodies of three men presumed dead in a plane crash in Antarctica can be recovered, rescuers say.
A day after the wreckage of the Calgary-based Kenn Borek Air Twin Otter plane carrying Northwest Territories pilot Bob Heath, Calgarian Mike Denton and another Canadian identified as Perry Andersen of Collingwood, Ont., was found, rescue crews from New Zealand were preparing a plan to access the site where it went down, on the side of Mt. Elizabeth.
Senior search-and-rescue officer Neville Blakemore said crews flew over the site Saturday to assess the weather and conditions.
The site is inaccessible for a helicopter to land.
"Hopefully, they will work out if they can get a helicopter as close as possible (and) they can then take a ground team up and the ground team will walk in," he said. "And all that will take time."
Many tributes to Heath, a veteran pilot, spoke of him as a "mentor" and "role model" in his field.
His wife, Lucy, contacted at the couple's Northwest Territories home, did not wish to comment.
TVA News journalist Valerie Gamache had the opportunity to fly with Heath on a few occasions. She called him a legend in Inuvik, where "there is no other way to travel than by plane."
"He was as funny as he was rigourous a pilot," she said in French. "He wasn't someone who took risks, but he was someone who knew how to manage from his extreme experience.
"When you lose one of your most experienced pilots, this is a blow to the entire community."
Officials with Kenn Borek refused to comment on the tragedy.
The aircraft left the South Pole last Wednesday, intending to reach an Italian base in Terra Nova Bay.
Initially, a signal from the plane's emergency locator beacon was detected in the north end of Antarctica's Queen Alexandra range, between the South Pole and an American station.
It soon stopped. The devices are not meant to last long and brutally cold temperatures likely depleted it's power.
"The logistics are huge because of the location," Rosemary Neilson with Wellington Rescue Co-ordination Centre said. "It is the isolation and really, really harsh conditions."
She said that all posed danger for those attempting a first a rescue mission and then those tasked with trying to recover bodies of those presumed killed in the crash.