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Canadian helicopter crashes in Atlantic with 18 aboard

world Updated: Mar 12, 2009 23:13 IST
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One survivor has been rescued after a helicopter with 18 people aboard crashed into the icy North Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Canada's Newfoundland province on Thursday, officials said.

"One person has been rescued," Rick Burt of charter Cougar Helicopters told a press conference. Meanwhile, search and rescue operations were under way to try to locate the 17 others, he said.

"The aircraft has sunk," he added.

Two rafts were spotted in the waters some 47 nautical miles (54 miles, 87 kilometers) southeast of Saint John's, Newfoundland, soon after the crash at 9:18 am local time (1148 GMT), Burt said.

"However we do not have any indication of whether there was anyone in the life rafts," said Major Denis McGuire of the Joint Rescue Coordination Center in Halifax.

Coast guard vessels and several military aircraft dispatched to the scene were to soon check if anyone managed to get into the rafts, by hoisting a rescuer down to the water's surface to peek inside, he said.

The rescued person was not identified, but was taken to hospital in Saint John's, officials said.

The downed helicopter had been ferrying workers from Saint John's to the Hibernia offshore oil platform when it plunged into the ocean, Gerry Grychowski, a spokeswoman for the rescue centre told AFP.

"The aircraft was on its way out, experienced technical problems, radioed in that it was turning around and that was the last that we had communication," said Burt.

The chopper was part of Cougar Helicopter's newer fleet of Sikorsky S-92 helicopter and weather at the time of the accident was mild, he said.

Major Denis McGuire of the Halifax rescue center said a debris field had been located on the ocean surface.

Several military helicopters, coast guard vessels and fixed-wing aircraft would continue to scour the area, he said.

At the onset, a military aircraft on a routine training mission and a merchant ship were first on the scene. Others took up to an hour to reach the crash site.

The lone survivor so far was picked up by a civilian helicopter owned by the Cougar.

Since then, the company said it has temporarily suspended all of its offshore flights until it knows the cause of the crash.

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