Aircraft recovery 'difficult, if not impossible'
The Ken Borek Air Limited Twin Otter aeroplane, with three crew on board, was reported missing on 23 January 2013. (Photo: File).
A coronial inquest into the fatal crash of a Twin Otter Aircraft in Antarctica has found it will be "difficult, if not impossible to recover the aircraft for more information".
Three Canadian men, Captain Bob Heath, First Officer Mike Denton and engineer Perry Anderson were identified as being on board the aircraft when it crashed or made a forced landing on January 23.
The plane was on a repositioning flight from South Pole Station to Terra Nova Bay when it did not respond to normal communications.
New Zealand search and rescue personnel said the plane crash would not have been survivable and subsequent attempts to find the bodies were hampered by fierce weather and high altitude.
The incident occurred in the Ross Dependency region of Antarctica, which comes under New Zealand's jurisdiction. Canadian and New Zealand authorities have been cooperating during the investigation.
The coroner's evidence was presented in Auckland District Court this morning, which was live streamed to the victims' families in Canada.
After hearing evidence from Senior Sergeant Bruce Johnston, Chief Coroner Judge MacLean agreed it would be "extraordinarily difficult to recover the bodies" due to the "harsh" environment.
Any small chance of a future recovery would depend on "the next summer season and availability of resources".
He compared the situation to that of the Pike River Mine and Easy Rider tragedies.
"All three men died on the upper slopes of Mt Elizabeth [...] Without post-mortem it can be presumed the deaths were caused by multiple injuries in a high impact crash," he said.
The rescue and recovery attempts in such dangerous conditions were praised by Judge MacLean, who said it showed "extreme courage".
He also mentioned the excellent communication during the investigation between a wide range of agencies, including the Canadian High Commission, NZ Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the aircraft operator Kenn Borek Air Ltd.
Additional investigations are still underway by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada who aim to further determine the causes and contributing factors of the incident.