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Page last updated at 01:43 GMT, Friday, 13 March 2009

Search for Canada crash survivors

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Earlier, rescue co-ordinator Jeri Grychowski said everything was being done to locate more survivors

One person has been confirmed dead and one survivor has been found after a helicopter carrying 18 people crashed into the sea off Canada's east coast.

An intensive air and sea search has been mounted to find other survivors in icy waters approaching 0C (32F).

The S-92 Sikorsky helicopter crashed 87km (54 miles) south-east of St John's in the province of Newfoundland, after reporting technical problems.

It was carrying workers to two oil platforms off Newfoundland's coast.

Empty life rafts

The helicopter sent out a distress call at 0918 (1148 GMT) in mild weather, said Rick Burt of charter company Cougar Helicopters, the aircraft's operator.

"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," Mr Burt told a news conference.

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It was ferrying workers from St John's to oil platforms in the Hibernia and White Rose oil and gas fields, some 200 miles (320km) and 217 miles respectively south-east of the Newfoundland coast.

The helicopter - less than four years old - was equipped with survival suits for the 16 passengers and crew that would enable them to survive for about 24 hours in the North Atlantic, Mr Burt said.

However, rescuers have not been able to pick up signals from locator beacons attached to each suit, correspondents say.

The premier of the Newfoundland and Labrador Government, Danny Williams, called the event an incredible tragedy.

The one survivor found so far was rescued by a civilian helicopter also operated by Cougar, and taken to hospital in St John's.

He was in a critical but stable condition being treated for hypothermia and a broken bone, CBC News reported.

A "debris field" had been identified on the surface of the sea, Maj Denis McGuire, from a rescue co-ordination centre in Halifax, was quoted as saying.

Two empty life rafts were found amid the flotsam.

Flights suspended

Officials said winds had gathered strength after the crash, creating waves as high as 3m (9.8ft).

Cougar says it has suspended all offshore flights until it knows the cause of the crash.

The service provided by Cougar shuttles workers between St John's and oil rigs out in the Atlantic.

On 18 February, a helicopter ditched close to an oil platform in the North Sea - but all 18 people on board survived thanks to a "textbook" rescue which included use of a state-of-the-art rescue craft.



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SEE ALSO
Country profile: Canada
26 Jan 12 |  Country profiles
Hi-tech boat 'crucial' in rescue
20 Feb 09 |  North East/N Isles



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