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'Sad end' to search for missing plane

Published: 6:05AM Saturday January 26, 2013 Source: ONE News

The wreckage of the Twin Otter aircraft missing in Antarctica since Wednesday night has been found.

Maritime New Zealand says the wreckage is on a very steep snow and ice covered slope, close to the summit of Mt Elizabeth.

MNZ says it appears to have made a direct impact that was not survivable.

The next of kin have been informed.

Kenn Borek Air has confirmed the sighting by a C130 Hercules aircraft of the New York National Guard. A short time later another Twin Otter plane flew over the crash site and the crew said there was no sign of activity in the area.

Mountain rescue personnel will attempt to access the site tomorrow.

The site of the crash is at a height of 3,900 metres at the northern end of the Queen Alexandra Range, within New Zealand's Search and Rescue Region and halfway between the South Pole and McMurdo Station.

Two helicopters, including a Southern Lakes helicopter on contract to Scott Base, reached the site at around 7.15pm (NZ time) after travelling from McMurdo Base this afternoon to a forward base at Beardmore Glacier, about 50km from the crash site.

A landing was not possible but they were able to survey the site briefly before returning to the Beardmore Glacier site.

The Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) has co-ordinated the search for the aircraft, working with United States and Canadian authorities.

RCCNZ Search and Rescue mission co-ordinator Tracy Brickles said it was very sad end to the operation.

"It has been difficult operation in challenging conditions but we remained hopeful of a positive result.  Our thoughts are now with the families of the crewmen."

Canadian news agencies have named the pilot as Bob Heath and his wife Lucy says she is facing an agonising wait.

The plane Heath was flying is one of 22 owned by Calgary's Kenn Borek Air. In 2001, one of its crews risked extreme conditions to get a sick US doctor out of Antarctica for treatment.

"This has been quite a fast rescue given the distances and the weather conditions," Brickles said.

Dense cloud, snow and winds up to 170km/h had hampered efforts.

The Twin Otter plane was travelling to the Italian base in Terra Nova when it was reported missing.