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Cockpit voice recorder could hold Antarctica plane crash clues

Monday 28 Jan 2013 4:20 p.m.

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Attempts to retrieve the bodies of three men trapped inside a ski plane in Antarctica have been called off until December.

The pilot and two crew members died when the de Havilland Twin Otter plan crashed into mountains, halfway between the South Pole and an Italian base in Terra Nova Bay.

Bob Heath, a veteran polar pilot with decades of experience, was at the controls of the plane when it crashed. The two crew on board have been identified as Canadian pilots Mike Denton of Calgary and Perry Anderson of Ontario.

Two search and rescue teams lead by New Zealand helicopter pilot Richard Hayes landed close to the site earlier today.

Antarctica New Zealand spokesman Graeme Ayres says hope was lost when crews found the plane’s wreckage.

“They would have climbed their way up the mountain site to ascertain if there was any signs of life and I am sad to say there weren't.

“What they have been able to do since yesterday afternoon is extract the cockpit voice recorder - and that will be very helpful in determining the cause of the crash.”

The crash site is at an altitude of almost 4000 metres - about as high as the summit of Mount Cook, or the Queen Alexandra Range.

New Zealand Search and Rescue spokesman Chris Henshaw told news agency the Canadian Press that the plane may have turned too early while attempting to fly through the mountain range.

'There is a path that they actually sort of follow through,” he said. “It looks like the pilot made a turn too early. We don't know at this stage”.

Bad weather conditions tonight have forced rescuers to retreat to the glacier below. They will return to Scott Base tomorrow minus the bodies.

An American and New Zealand team will make another attempt to retrieve the three Canadians later in the year, most likely next summer.

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