x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

16 missing in Atlantic Ocean

Canadian rescuers search freezing waters for 16 missing people after helicopter ditches into the ocean off Newfoundland.

A survivor is lifted out of a helicopter at the Health Sciences Center in St John's, New Foundland, Canada, on March 12, 2009.
A survivor is lifted out of a helicopter at the Health Sciences Center in St John's, New Foundland, Canada, on March 12, 2009.

ST JOHN'S, CANADA // Rescuers searched freezing waters for 16 missing people after a helicopter reported mechanical problems and ditched into the Atlantic Ocean off Newfoundland. Of the 18 aboard, one man was rescued and one body was recovered. The others, who are believed to be wearing survival suits, were missing about 50km out to sea. The lone survivor, Robert Decker, was said to be in a critical but stable condition at St John's hospital after being pulled from the water by another helicopter. The St John's Telegram said he was suffering from salt in his lungs, a broken bone and hypothermia.

Major Denis McGuire, of Halifax's rescue coordination centre, said: "We'll continue to search until there is absolutely no chance that any survivors may be located." He said the survival window was about 24 hours. Everyone onboard would have been equipped with survival suits - which serve as life preservers and retain body warmth in frigid waters - and water-activated locator beacons. Correcting an earlier statement, Major McGuire said that searchers had not picked up any signals from the beacons.

The incident happened yesterday at about 8am local time. Water temperatures were at freezing and the ocean was buffeted by strong winds and waves up to three metres high. Two life rafts were spotted in the water amid debris from the helicopter, but rescuers later confirmed they were empty. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families who are anxiously awaiting word on their loved ones," said the prime minister, Stephen Harper.

The S-92 Sikorsky helicopter went down 88km south-east of St John's, the provincial capital, said Rick Burt of Cougar Helicopters. The helicopter issued a mayday call just before 8am as it was flying to Hibernia oil platforms, about 321km east of St John's. The crash came less than a month after a helicopter ferrying oil workers crashed into the North Sea off Scotland. All 18 aboard were rescued from the chilly waters after the aircraft landed upright a few hundred yards from the oil platform. * AP