Wind, snow thwart search for plane in Antarctica

Last Updated: Friday, January 25, 2013 - 14:23

Wellington (New Zealand): Hurricane-force winds and snow were preventing searchers on Friday from reaching a plane believed to have crashed in an Antarctic mountain range while carrying three Canadians.

Its emergency locater started transmitting late on Wednesday about 680 kilometers north of the South Pole, but the weather has prevented search planes overhead from seeing the presumed crash site itself.

Rescuers don`t know if the men are alive. Their plane has survival gear including tents and food.

The locater stopped transmitting yesterday night and crews have been unable to establish radio contact. Rescuers say a break in the weather is forecast tomorrow.

One man on the plane has been identified as Bob Heath from the Northwest Territories, an experienced pilot in both the Antarctic and Arctic. Rescuers say the other two men were also part of the flight crew and that no passengers were aboard.

The propeller-driven de Havilland Twin Otter, was flying from a US station near the pole to an Italian research base in Terra Nova Bay. Rescuers believe it crashed in the Queen Alexandra mountain range at an elevation of about 3,900 meters.

Winds of up to 90 knots (104 miles per hour) have been blowing yesterday and today.

Steve Rendle, a spokesman for New Zealand`s Rescue Coordination Centre, said rescue planes circled the area on yesterday and today but have been unable to spot the downed plane due to poor visibility. He said the battery on the locater beacon may have run out but that rescuers have a good fix on its location.

He said that when the weather clears, crews hope to establish a forward base at the Beardmore Glacier about 50 kilometers from the assumed crash site. He said there`s a rudimentary runway and a fuel depot at the glacier.

For now, two helicopters and a small plane remain at McMurdo Station, the main US base about four hours` flight away. He said the elevation provides extra challenges for helicopter crews.

PTI



First Published: Friday, January 25, 2013 - 14:23

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