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13 Survivors, Five Dead In Arctic Plane Crash

November 1, 1991

EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) _ Thirteen survivors of a military plane crash near the North Pole were being airlifted out Friday after enduring two days in a raging blizzard before a search-and-rescue team could reach them.

Five other passengers on the C-130 Hercules were killed in the crash Wednesday, said Lt. Cmdr. Wally West of the Canadian Forces Base in Edmonton, Alberta. He said four of the survivors were seriously injured and the others suffered minor injuries.

The weather cleared enough late Thursday night to permit six parachutists to reach the snow-covered, rocky site with emergency supplies and medical aid, said Capt. Rod Gray of the Edmonton base, where the Hercules is based.

A ground search party made three attempts to get to the scene and eventually reached it two hours after the parachutists.

The plane was on a routine supply run from Thule, Greenland, to a Canadian military station at Alert, the world’s most northerly settlement, when it crashed about 12 miles short of the runway Wednesday afternoon.

The crash site, on the tip of Ellesmere Island, is a rocky, rugged area where there is twilight for only two hours a day at this time of year.

Rescuers were kept away by winds and blowing snow that reduced visibility to near zero. There was only sporadic contact, by radio and Morse code, between survivors and the military throughout their two-day ordeal.

The cause of the crash has not yet been determined.

The dead were identified as the pilot, Capt. John Couch of St. Albert, Alberta, Master Cpl. Rollie Petre of Edmonton, Capt. J. Trepanier of Ottawa, Warrant Officer R. Grimsly of Ottawa and Master Warrant Officer J. T. Jardine of Trenton, Ontario.

The four seriously injured survivors were airlifted to the base at Alert. They were to be moved later by medically equipped Hercules to a U.S. military hospital in Thule, Greenland, just across the McKenzie Strait from Alert.

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