Five days after three Australians were injured in a helicopter crash in Antarctica, they have returned to Hobart for comprehensive medical assessment and treatment.

They arrived in Hobart at 6.45 this morning aboard the Australian Antarctic Division’s Airbus A319, under medical supervision, and were taken to the Royal Hobart Hospital where they are undergoing comprehensive assessment of their injuries. Doctors from the Royal Hobart Hospital were aboard the A319 flight for the medical evacuation.

Australian Antarctic Division Director, Dr Tony Fleming, said that the major priority was to get the patients back to Hobart as soon as medical staff considered it safe for them to fly, and when weather and logistics permitted.

“Yesterday afternoon, a suitable weather window opened up, allowing us to use a Basler aircraft to fly the three patients to Wilkins runway near Casey station, almost 1400 kilometres from Davis near where the crash occurred. They were then transferred to the A319 for the four-and-a-half hour flight to Hobart.

Dr Fleming said that the helicopter came down near the Amery Ice Shelf, 150 nautical miles from Davis station while returning from a mission to survey a penguin colony.

The crash happened in a heavily-crevassed area, making recovery difficult.

The helicopter was one of two returning from the research mission.

The pilot and expeditioner in the second helicopter were able to land nearby and render immediate first-aid assistance to those injured, keeping them warm and sheltered until they could be transferred to the Davis station medical facility.

In a very complex exercise, and with the use of Twin Otter and Basler aircraft, the injured were flown to the station late on Monday night, Australian Eastern Daylight Saving time.

The Basler was used to find a viable landing site for the Twin Otter and establish a suitable staging point to transfer the injured by helicopter and Twin Otter to Davis station.

Once back at Davis, they underwent assessment and constant monitoring by the station doctor and lay medical team, with support from the Australian Antarctic Division’s Polar Medicine Unit at Kingston in Tasmania. Advanced telemedicine enabled input from specialists at the Royal Hobart Hospital.

Dr Fleming said that an extraordinary team effort by everyone on station, along with support from the Antarctic Division’s head office in Kingston, the Royal Hobart Hospital, Helicopter Resources, Skytraders, and regular weather advice from the Bureau of Meteorology, had all contributed to the successful retrieval of the injured and their safe return to Hobart.