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Canadian Coast Guard helicopter crash victims succumbed to hypothermia

The three victims of a Canadian Coast Guard helicopter crash in the Northwest Passage died of hypothermia rather than the impact of the Arctic accident, a preliminary postmortem indi-cates.

Cathy Menard, Northwest Territories chief coroner, said in an interview that the findings suggest the three men who died Sept. 9 were killed by "cold water immersion."

The bodies of Coast Guard icebreaker captain Marc Thibault, helicopter pilot Daniel Dubé and research scientist Klaus Hochheim were examined in Edmonton on Monday.

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Ms. Menard said it's estimated the men may have been in the water for up to an hour.

They were wearing survival suits and their helicopter

had been scouting the sea-ice conditions when it plunged

into McClure Strait off Banks Island.

The Canadian government, meanwhile, is still pondering the salvage operation to retrieve the sunken helicopter and whether to send the Amundsen and another icebreaker back to the crash site 670 kilometres west of Resolute, Nunavut.

Recovering the helicopter would help determine whether the aircraft was suffering from safety flaws that might affect copters attached to other Coast Guard ships.

But the recovery operation would be tricky, because of wind, currents, and shifting ice floes.

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Ms. Menard said the remains of the men have been released and will be returned to their loved ones on Wednesday.

The fact that the helicopter sent no distress messages to the Amundsen before it crashed has many in the Arctic research community puzzling over what happened.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Steven Chase has covered federal politics in Ottawa for The Globe since mid-2001, arriving there a few months before 9/11. He previously worked in the paper's Vancouver and Calgary bureaus. Prior to that, he reported on Alberta politics for the Calgary Herald and the Calgary Sun, and on national issues for Alberta Report. More

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