Helicopter carrying rescued Nunavut hunters crashes

Family members are anxiously waiting to hear about the fate of two stranded seal hunters who were plucked from the ice off the west shore of Hudson Bay only to have their rescue chopper crash soon afterward.

Charlotte St. John said she has been told her brother and nephew are alive but she doesn't know if they're hurt or if their rescuers in the helicopter also survived.

"The helicopter had just picked them up and about 100 metres later, the helicopter crashed and the only thing we heard was that they were injured. And the Hercules was flying around and the medic parachuted down to them until a next helicopter could pick them up," she said.

She said a medevac flight with a doctor and a nurse on board had flown to the community earlier in the day and was waiting to assess the two hunters and a helicopter pilot.

St. John added that it's been a "horrendous" day. "But I have a lot of family and friends and they have given us a lot of support. That’s the only way we have been surviving today."

Search and rescue technicians have parachuted onto the sea ice off the west shore of Hudson Bay to the scene of the crash.

The parachutists jumped from a Hercules, which was already on the scene for the search.

Two other military aircraft — a Griffon helicopter from Cold Lake, Alta., and a Cormorant helicopter from Quebec City — were on their way to where the rescue helicopter went down.

Rescue officials from Trenton, Ont., reported the chartered, privately owned helicopter was half on the ice, half in the water. It crashed about 100 metres from where it picked up the hunters.

Little is known about the condition of the occupants.

"Nothing's been confirmed at all," said marine controller Chris Armour. "We're just trying to find out and get people out of the situation."

The RCMP in Iqaluit said medical staff in Arviat, are on hand and ready to treat anyone with injuries.

A man in his 50s and a 20-year-old man, believed to be his son, were being rescued after getting stuck on the ice about three kilometres east of Arviat.

They left the community on a snowmobile Tuesday to go hunting, but didn't return.

A satellite phone had been dropped to the men. They were reported to be in good condition this morning, despite the extreme cold temperatures overnight. Environment Canada issued an extreme windchill warning yesterday for Arviat, with temperatures expected to feel like –55 to –58 C.

Rescuers had attempted to get to the hunters by boat early this morning, but they were hampered by icy water.

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