A Canadian helicopter pilot injured in an incident on a remote Antarctic ice shelf near Australia’s Davis research station late yesterday has died.
Pilot David Wood, 62, who lived in Canada, was employed by Helicopter Resources and was working with the Australian Antarctic program at Davis station.
Australian Antarctic Division (ADD) director Dr Nick Gales expresses the ADD’s sincere condolences to Mr Wood’s family.
Mr Wood was a respected colleague and friend to many in the Australian Antarctic program, with which he had been involved for a number of years.
Dr Gales said Mr Wood had more than 30 years experience as a pilot, and had worked extensively in both the Antarctic and Arctic.
The incident occurred on Monday night when two helicopters were sling loading fuel to a depot on the West Ice Shelf about 90 nautical miles north east of Davis research station.
After dropping the fuel drums at the depot site, the pilots landed at the remote ice shelf site at approximately 8:00pm (local time) to retrieve the sling equipment. The pilots were flying solo in the two helicopters, as is routine during sling loading operations.
After disembarking from his aircraft, Mr Wood fell into a crevasse. The second pilot was not able to assist. He made radio contact with Davis Station and flew back to the station for help, a flight of around 45 minutes.
A response team of three specialist search and rescue officers was dispatched to the site from Davis Station and arrived approximately three hours after the pilot’s fall. They were able to retrieve Mr Wood from a depth of around 20 metres.
Mr Wood was flown by helicopter to the Antarctic Division’s medical facility at Davis Station in a critical condition, where he was cared for by a team of specialists on station and in Australia via telemedicine.
The ADD has been in regular contact with Mr Wood’s family. The Division is working to return his body to Australia at the earliest opportunity.