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U of M researcher aboard Amundsen dies in Arctic crash

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University of Manitoba research scientist Klaus Hochheim and two Canadian Coast Guard officers died Monday night when their helicopter crashed into the Arctic Ocean during a routine flight from the research icebreaker Amundsen.

Coast Guard assistant commissioner Mario Pelletier said today that contact with the helicopter was lost about 8 p.m. local time while the helicopter was on a routine mission in clear weather to check ice conditions in the area.

Pilot Daniel Dube and Amundsen commander Marc Thibault also died. There was no one else aboard.

Pelletier said that the three bodies were recovered in open water. The RCMP will take over the investigation of how and when they died when the ship reaches Resolute Bay sometime Wednesday. The National Transportation safety Board will investigate the cause of the crash.

The helicopter is believed to be 420 metres below the surface.

Hochheim was a climatologist and research associate with the Centre for Earth Observation Science at U of M, which announced a $15-million Arctic research centre last March if which the Amundsen was a key part.

The U of M’s renowned Arctic research program has used the Amundsen as its base for several years.

In a statement, Tim Papakyriakou, director of the Centre for Earth Observation Science, said, "Klaus was a friend and colleague. We're devastated at the news of his passing. Klaus worked with us at CEOS for over 12 years, although collaborations with some here extend back more than 25 years.

"He was a veteran of high Arctic field campaigns and an outstanding research scientist. We extend heartfelt condolences to his family. He will be sorely missed by all."

The U of M said Hochheim leaves behind a wife and three children.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered his condolences "to the families and friends of Mr. Marc Thibault, Commanding Officer of the CCGS Amundsen; Mr. Daniel Dube, helicopter pilot, and Mr. Klaus Hochheim, Arctic scientist affiliated with the University of Manitoba.

"It is a grim reminder of the very real dangers faced on a regular basis by those brave individuals who conduct research and patrol our Arctic – one of the harshest and most challenging climates in the world – to better understand and protect Canada’s North," Harper said in a statement.

"The courage and dedication of these three brave individuals will be honoured and remembered."

Harper said the three died in the McClure Strait, near Banks Island in the Northwest Territories, during a routine ice reconnaissance mission to check ice conditions.

In February 2008, reporter Bartley Kives and photographer Wayne Glowacki spent several days aboard the Amundsen and produced a series of videos:

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Updated on Tuesday, September 10, 2013 at 10:54 AM CDT: Updates with more info on fatalities, adds link

11:12 AM: Adds link

11:48 AM: Updates with information on researcher who died in crash, statement from colleague

11:48 AM: Adds photo of Klaus Hochheim

11:56 AM: Adds condolences from Prime Minister

12:01 PM: Updates with quote regarding ice shove

12:05 PM: Adds map

12:31 PM: Updates with additional information on fatalities and RCMP investigation

1:39 PM: Adds Storify.

4:45 PM: Changes photo.

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