Page last updated at 11:23 GMT, Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Pilots survive night on ice floe

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Two men who crash-landed their plane in freezing waters survived 18 hours on a tiny sheet of ice "huddled together like penguins".

The two - one Australian and the other Swedish - endured temperatures of -20C (-4F) after their Cessna plane ran into trouble over the far north of Canada.

Their survival equipment sank with the plane and rescue aircraft responding to their Mayday call failed to find them.

They were eventually rescued by a trawler and airlifted to hospital.

Australian Oliver Edwards-Neil, 25, and his Swedish flying partner Troels Hansen, 45, had been flying a Cessna Skymaster from the US to Sweden when both its engines failed over the Hudson Strait, just south of the Arctic Circle.

Equipment lost

They sent out a Mayday call before landing minutes later in water surrounded by tiny sheets of ice.

As the cockpit quickly filled with freezing water, they managed to scramble through a window and on to an ice sheet about 5m (16ft) wide and 10m long before the plane sank, with all their equipment on board.

Mr Edwards-Neil, who lives in Sweden, told the Sydney Morning Herald website that it was already dark and after two hours on the ice they heard rescue planes and helicopters circling.

We tried to keep each other warm and sheltered each other from the wind... like penguins
Oliver Edwards-Neil

But without flares or even a torch the men had no way of attracting attention and the aircraft eventually flew away.

Mr Edwards-Neil said that their survival suits saved their lives.

"But I never thought I could freeze that much. I was shivering non-stop," he said.

"I was sure that I was not going to make it but my mate said 'You're going to get there.'

"We kept each other going and supported each other, and we tried to keep each other warm and sheltered each other from the wind... like penguins."

When daylight came, the men could see land in the distance and started to jump from one ice sheet to another to try to reach it.

It was then that they were found by a fishing boat that had also heard their Mayday call and headed to the scene.

The captain, Bo Mortensen, said the men were "weeping with joy" when the crew brought them aboard 7km (4.3 miles) from Baffin Island, in Canada's Nunavut territory.

He said the men looked to be in good shape apart from frostbite to their feet, but were "lucky to be alive".

Mr Edwards-Neil and Mr Hansen were later transferred by helicopter to a hospital in Iqaluit, Nunavut.

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