“Cold water immersion” killed three in Sept. 9 Arctic chopper crash: NWT coroner
CCGS Amundsen remains on standby to assist in salvage effort
The three men who died after a Canadian Coast Guard helicopter crashed in the Arctic Sept. 9 were killed by “cold water immersion,” Cathy Menard, chief coroner of the Northwest Territories, said Sept. 17.
Autopsies conducted in Edmonton Sept. 16 showed the men suffered no fatal injuries, suggesting they survived the crash of their helicopter, only to die from the effects of the frigid water — this would have led to hypothermia, a lethal lowering of their body temperature, likely within about one hour.
Marc Thibault, commanding officer of the CCGS Amundsen, Daniel Dubé, the helicopter pilot, and Klaus Hochheim, a scientist affiliated with the University of Manitoba, all died when the helicopter from the Amundsen crashed while they were conducting a routine ice observation tour.
The three were found in the water wearing survival suits, when the Amundsen arrived on the scene.
But while these suits can assist in surviving cold-shock and swim failure — which can result when a person hits the icy water, how long a person can survive in cold water primarily depends on the water’s temperature, exposure time, and the thermal insulation of the protective clothing.
The helicopter now lies under about 420 metres of sea water.
The Amundsen is still awaiting word from the Transportation Safety Board to see if the research icebreaker, along with a second Coast Guard icebreaker, will participate in the salvage of the helicopter, Martin Fortier, the executive director of ArcticNet, said Sept. 18.
Meanwhile, the Amundsen sits anchored at Resolute Bay.