The Antarctic community lost three much-loved and respected colleagues and friends in a plane crash on 23 January 2013.
Pilots Bob Heath and Mike Denton, and engineer Perry Andersen, were killed when their Twin Otter aircraft, operated by Canadian-based Kenn Borek Air, crashed in the Queen Alexandra Range, halfway between the South Pole and Mc Murdo station. Search and rescue teams located the crash site near the summit of Mt Elizabeth, at an altitude of 13 000 ft.
The air crew were en-route from the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station to the Italian research station at Terra Nova Bay. They had just finished a season supporting the Australian Antarctic program, flying expeditioners and scientists between stations.
Bob, Mike and Perry were great friends of the Australian Antarctic program and our expeditioners, and I had flow with them on many occasions. They were well respected and embraced as part of our Antarctic station communities.
Mike’s first job was with the Australian Antarctic Division. He was so enthusiastic and a delight to be with. He was liked by all. It is a tragedy that he was lost so young.
Perry will be remembered by us as a loveable larrikin, liked by all on station. He was dedicated to his job; to keeping the aircraft flying and keeping it safe.
Bob had close friendships with many of our Australian expeditioners. Obviously, he was a great pilot, but that doesn’t even begin to describe what he brought to the Australian Antarctic program. He was an educator, a story teller and a central part of the social fabric of our communities.
I will be eternally grateful that Bob, Mike and Perry kept our people safe in a hazardous environment. It wasn’t just a job for them; they were connected to our people, our program and the work our scientists do.
Our hearts go out to their families, friends and colleagues at Kenn Borek Air as we share their grief. They were special people. They kept us safe. They were our colleagues and our friends. We will never forget them.
Australian Antarctic Division