Helicopter with 18 aboard ditches in Atlantic

Rescuers search freezing waters for 16 missing people after helicopter taking oil workers to oil rigs dives into Atlantic Ocean off Newfoundland.

canada crash 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
canada crash 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Rescuers searched freezing waters for 16 missing people Thursday after a helicopter that was taking oil workers to oil rigs reported mechanical problems and ditched into the Atlantic Ocean off Newfoundland, officials said. Of the 18 people aboard, one person was rescued and one body has been recovered. The others were missing about 30 miles (48 kilometers) out to sea, officials at a news conference said. Rescuers pulled one person from the water with another helicopter, while the remaining 16 were still missing, officials said. The rescued man was flown to the Health Sciences Centre in St. John's. Robert Decker of St. John's was listed in critical but stable condition. Jeri Grychowski of the Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Halifax said a body was recovered at the same time. Two life-rafts were spotted in the water, but rescuers later confirmed they were empty. "The two life-rafts have been checked and there is nobody in them," said Grychowski. "They're still searching because they would have had their survival suits on." The survival window is about 24 hours - but only if the people were wearing the required survival suits with water-activated locator beacons, said Major Denis McGuire of the Rescue Coordination Center in Halifax. The suits act like life vests and retain warmth in frigid waters. McGuire said all rescuers have found is a debris field in a six nautical mile area. "There has been no indication of any survivors, but the search will continue. Obviously, we'll hope for that best," McGuire said. McGuire said they'll continue to search Thursday night and on Friday. "We'll continue to search until there is absolutely no chance that any survivors may be located." Everyone aboard the helicopter would have been required to wear a survival suit, which are equipped with the water-activated locator beacons, but McGuire clarified earlier statements by saying that searchers didn't pick up any signals from the survival suits. The water temperature was right at freezing. Winds are fairly strong in the area, with six- to nine-foot (two- to three-meter) waves, Grychowski said. "Intensive search operations continue to be under way for the other passengers," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in Parliament. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families who are anxiously awaiting word on their loved ones."