Four killed in Antarctica helicopter crash

* Two French scientists, pilot and mechanic found dead

ALL four people aboard a French helicopter that crashed in Antarctica were found dead by rescue workers yesterday, the French government said.

The bodies of two French scientists, a pilot and a mechanic were recovered from the wreckage and flown some 100 kilometres to France’s Dumont d’Urville research base in East Antarctica, France’s Southern and Antarctic territories authority said in a statement.

The helicopter, an AS350 Squirrel, which was used for transport between the base and its supply ship, first sent a distress signal on Thursday after taking off from the French icebreaking Astrolabe. However, extreme weather conditions meant rescue teams were only able to reach it on Saturday.

“The rescue team unfortunately saw there were no survivors,” the French authority said.

France’s minister for higher education and research, Valerie Pecresse, expressed her condolences to the families of the crash victims in a statement and praised their achievements supporting scientific research in Antarctica.

Dumont d’Urville, the main French Antarctic base, is situated on an island close to the magnetic south pole and is frequently buffeted by hurricane-strength katabatic winds, the force of which can prevent helicopters from landing.

The east Antarctic is known as the “home of the blizzard”.

The Astrolabe carries out regular round trips between the southern Australian port of Hobart and the base from November through to March, carrying both supplies and personnel.

It is currently icebound several hundred kilometres from the Dumont d’Urville base.

A vast colony of emperor penguins live near to the base, which was the backdrop for the hugely popular 2005 movie “March of the Penguins”.

Subjects under research at the base include earth sciences, atmospheric studies and biology.