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Antarctic winter halts recovery of bodies of Canadian aircrash victims


15:55, January 28, 2013

WELLINGTON, Jan. 28 (Xinhua) -- The bodies of three Canadian men aboard a plane that crashed in Antarctica last week will remain in the wreckage until October at least, New Zealand authorities said Monday.

The wreckage of the de Havilland Twin Otter reported missing late Wednesday was found on a very steep slope, close to the summit of Mount Elizabeth at the northern end of the Queen Alexandra Range -- halfway between the South Pole and McMurdo Station, about 680 km in each direction.

The Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand, which coordinated the international search, said the plane appeared to "have made a direct impact that was not survivable."

Antarctica New Zealand, the government agency responsible for New Zealand's operations in Antarctica, said in a statement Monday that field teams were landed close to the crash site on Sunday and were able to recover some equipment, including the cockpit voice recorder, from the exposed tail of the aircraft, but they were unable to access the remains of the crew.

Officials with the U.S. Antarctic Program and Antarctica New Zealand had jointly decided to recall search and rescue teams from the site after deciding it would be unsafe to further disturb the wreckage, which was largely embedded in snow and ice on a steep mountain slope, said the statement.

"With the advent of the Antarctic winter, and the generally poor weather conditions at the crash site, any renewed effort to recover the remains will need to wait until the next Antarctic research season," said the statement.

The next Antarctic research season will begin in October.

Radio New Zealand reported Monday that New Zealand's Transport Accident Investigation Commission had announced that the authorities involved had decided that Canada would lead the investigation into the crash.

The plane was flying in support of the Italian Antarctic Program under the logistical responsibility of the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development.

It was en route from the U.S. National Science Foundation's Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station to the Italian research station at Terra Nova Bay when it crashed.

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