Saint-Denis-De-La-Reunion: Searchers spotted three bodies near the wreckage of a helicopter which crashed into the ice of Antarctica leaving four Frenchmen missing, French officials said on Friday.
An Australian air force plane "reported observing three bodies in the crash zone", TAAF, the state authority that administers southern French overseas territories including parts of the Antarctic, said in a statement.
"The teams report seeing debris scattered over 150 metres , which indicates a strong impact with the ground," it said from its headquarters on the Indian Ocean island of Reunion.
The AS350 Squirrel helicopter, which has been missing since late Thursday, was carrying four Frenchmen -- the pilot, a mechanic and two staff from Dumont d`Urville research base in the French Southern and Antarctic Lands.
It had taken off from a ship, the Astrolabe, that helps supply the station, although details of its destination were not immediately available.
A second French helicopter at Dumont d`Urville was unable to search the crash zone because snow was causing "very limited" visibility, said a statement released Friday by TAAF.
The Australian maritime authority earlier said air force planes had reported seeing debris about 100 kilometres from Dumont d`Urville "and that there are no signs that anyone has survived the impact of the crash".
Officials had earlier detected a distress beacon but the intercontinental rescue effort was unable to sight the chopper in heavy cloud or make radio contact with it.
A New Zealand-based US plane flew over the zone early today, while the Australian aircraft capable of making emergency drops made its way to the frozen southern continent late today.