NEWS
08/01/2011 04:49 EDT | Updated 10/01/2011 05:12 EDT

Recovery underway of fatal helicopter crash victims from B.C., Quebec

PRINCE RUPERT, B.C. - Rescue crews were making efforts Monday to retrieve the bodies of three men who died when their helicopter crashed in a farflung area of northern B.C., even as poor weather hampered investigators trying to determine the cause.

A 35-year-old pilot, believed to be from Abbotsford, B.C., and passengers from Quebec and Powell River, B.C., were killed when the private Bell 407 chopper plunged down Sunday afternoon, said RCMP Cpl. Dan Moskaluk.

The pair had contracted the flight from Vancouver Island Helicopters to conduct geological and mining work.

"The VIH family would like to take this opportunity to extend our heartfelt sympathies to those directly impacted by this tragedy," said a statement from the company Monday, calling the incident an "accident."

"We continue to help where possible, family members of the deceased have been contacted and are being assisted with counselling and support."

After police were notified about 4 p.m. Sunday, the company flew investigators to the crash site near Meziadin Lake on Nelson Glacier, a nearly 400 kilometre drive north of Prince Rupert, Moskaluk said.

The crew landed and photographed the scene. All three people were confirmed dead.

"They went back in today to asses the site with search and rescue technicians to see what equipment would be needed to affect a recovery," Moskaluk said Monday.

"We are optimistic they will be able to complete the recovery today of the three remains."

The helicopter company, based in North Saanich, B.C., didn't provide any details of what happened or give any further information about the victims. The statement asked for privacy of the families involved. Names of the victims were not released.

It described the crash location as "particularly remote" and primarily accessible by helicopter, adding that weather conditions in the area were making the investigation difficult.

"VIH Helicopters respectfully awaits investigators and government agencies as they complete their investigation. We are actively working and co-operating with investigators."

Calls were not returned Monday by the Transportation Safety Board, which took over the investigation with the help of RCMP and the BC Coroner's Service. Transport Canada will also play a role.

"It would be inappropriate to speculate at this time as to the cause of the accident," a spokeswoman for Transport Canada said in an email. "The TSB investigation will determine the contributing factors in this accident."