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Canadian pilot dies in Antarctica

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A Canadian helicopter pilot who plunged into a crevasse while working on a remote ice shelf in Antarctica died of his injuries today.

David Wood was working with the Australian government’s Antarctic program at Davis station—a permanent base in Antarctica.

“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.

The 62-year-old, an employee of Australian company Helicopter Resources, had been out on a fuel-loading operation yesterday when things went awry.

Two helicopters—one of them flown by Wood—were “sling loading” fuel to a depot on the West Ice Shelf, located north east of the Davis research station, the division said.

Once the fuel drums were dropped at the depot site, the helicopters landed at the ice shelf to retrieve the sling equipment they had been using.

Wood and the other helicopter’s pilot both were flying solo at the time, as is routine during such operations, the division said.

At that point, Wood tumbled down a chasm.

“After disembarking from his aircraft, Mr Wood fell into a crevasse,” the division said.

“The second pilot was not able to assist,” it added.

“He made radio contact with Davis station and flew back to the station for help—a flight of around 45 minutes.”

Wood lay at the bottom of the crevasse—some 20 metres down—for about three hours, at which point a search-and-rescue team was able to haul him up and fly him back to Davis station, the division said.

Wood, who was in critical condition when he was rescued, died today, the division noted.

Efforts were being made to return his body to Australia at the earliest opportunity, it added.

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