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All bodies recovered from Canadian helicopter crash

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Search and rescue basket
Image: Hustvedt.

Funerals began Monday across Newfoundland for the deceased of the downed Sikorsky S92 helicopter that crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on Friday killing 17 of the 18 people on board. All bodies have now been recovered, and the voice and flight data recorders have been retrieved to aid the investigation.

“We have a big attachment to the sea, even if a family is not directly involved you know how dangerous it is out there. Some funerals are strictly a family matter. In this situation there's a large extended family because we're all affected,” said Jim Maher, the uncle of Allison Maher, 26, the first deceased recovered after the crash.

The Archbishop of St. John's, Martin Currie, said, “Tragedy is no stranger to the people of Newfoundland. They're very resilient people and in a time of tragedy, they come together to support each other. Most of the communities in Newfoundland are small communities. Everybody knows everybody."

The Transportation Safety Board has retrieved nine more bodies from the wreckage. The Atlantic Osprey is the offshore supply vessel which has been with the search and rescue effort since day one. The newly recovered bodies were taken back to St. John's aboard the ship.

Since the recovery operations began Monday "it took 24 hours to get nine bodies out Each presents its own challenges depending on how it is entangled inside the aircraft" said RCMP Sergeant Wayne Newell.

Operations continued Tuesday to recover the final seven bodies tangled inside the mangled wreck 120 to 150 meters (394 to 492 feet) below the ocean surface. Remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) are being used in the icy waters to place the bodies in a basket so they can be raised to the surface. After the Atlantic Osprey arrived in port, the bodies were taken to the Newfoundland's chief medical officer by hearse for identification.

Of the 19 people aboard, Robert Decker is the sole survivor. Decker's family has informed the RCMP that he is not yet able to communicate. Decker, who was put on life support when first admitted to hospital with injured lungs and broken bones, has said a few words; RCMP investigators hope that he will be able explain what happened in the accident and assist with the investigation, possibly toward the end of the week.

Twelve names of the missing victims had previously been announced, and with family permission, the RCMP have now released the names of Corey Eddy, from Paradise, N.L., age 32, and John Pelley, from Deer Lake, N.L. age 41.


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