Injured Antarctic helicopter pilot remains in critical condition

Aerial view of Australia's Davis station, Antarctica.
Aerial view of Australia's Davis station, Antarctica. (Photo: Glenn Jacobson)

12th January 2016

4.45 pm 

The helicopter pilot injured in an incident on a remote ice shelf near Australia’s Davis station late yesterday remains in a critical condition.

The man is Canadian pilot David Wood, 62. He is an employee of Helicopter Resources working with the Australian Antarctic program at Davis station.

The incident occurred when two helicopters were sling loading fuel to a depot on the West Ice Shelf about 90 nautical miles north east of Davis station.

After dropping the fuel drums at the depot site, the pilots landed at the remote ice shelf site at approximately 8.00 pm AEDT to retrieve the sling equipment. The pilots were flying solo in the two helicopters, as is routine during sling loading operations.

After disembarking 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 specialist search and rescue team was dispatched to the site from Davis station and arrived approximately two hours after the pilot’s fall. They were able to retrieve Mr Wood from a depth of around 20 metres.

Mr Wood was then flown by helicopter to the Antarctic Division’s medical facility at Davis station in a critical condition. There is one doctor at Davis station who is being supported by a lay medical team and receiving specialist advice via telemedicine. The Division’s Polar Medicine Unit is liaising with specialists around the country to ensure that the best medical care is provided.

The Australian Antarctic Division is in regular contact with Mr Wood’s family.

The Division is looking at a number of options for an aeromedical evacuation.

Wilkins Aerodrome is being prepared for possible use and will be ready tomorrow afternoon at the earliest. All aviation operations are subject to suitable weather conditions.