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16 still missing after chopper ditches in Atlantic

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Search to continue "until there's absolutely no chance" of locating survivors
  • NEW: People aboard chopper should be wearing survival suits, locator beacons
  • One survivor in hospital, one man found dead, 16 still missing
  • 18 aboard were oil workers; copter ditched into waters off Newfoundland
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(CNN) -- The search will continue until at least Friday night for 16 people missing since Thursday morning when a helicopter carrying them to an offshore oil platform ditched in the Atlantic Ocean off Newfoundland, Canadian officials said.

A helicopter made an emergency crash landing off Newfoundland en route to Hibernia oil field on Thursday.

A helicopter made an emergency crash landing off Newfoundland en route to Hibernia oil field on Thursday.

One survivor, identified as Robert Decker, was found and taken to a hospital, but efforts to find more survivors had proven fruitless, said Maj. Denis McGuire of the Rescue Coordination Center in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The body of one person, who has not been identified publicly, also was pulled from the water. There were 18 people aboard the helicopter when it went down, about 30 nautical miles from St. John's.

"All we've got is the debris field," McGuire said. "There are no indications of any [more] survivors, but the search will continue."

The water is 400 feet deep at the site where the helicopter hit the water, he said.

Helicopters and ships were scouring the debris field Thursday evening, and search-and-rescue technicians were planning to use night-vision goggles and flares overnight.

The debris filled a six-mile area, said Jeri Grychowski of the Rescue Coordination Centre in Halifax.

Officials became aware that the helicopter was having problems shortly after 9:10 a.m., when the pilot declared a mayday, McGuire said.

"They declared their mayday and then they hit the water or landed in the water approximately eight minutes later," he said.

About 25 minutes later, a helicopter arrived and discovered the survivor, the body, the overturned helicopter and two empty life rafts, he said.

Those aboard should have have been wearing survival suits that would have kept them dry and were equipped with lights and personal locator beacons, but the suits have not helped searchers.

"We have not received any signals whatsoever," McGuire said.

The suits theoretically would allow wearers to survive 24 hours in the freezing waters -- or until about 9 a.m. Friday -- but the search effort was to continue well beyond that.

"We will continue to search until there's absolutely no chance that any survivors will be located," he said. "Until last light [Friday]."

At that time, based on water temperature and the size of the search area, officials will decide whether to continue the effort, he said.

Early in the day, high winds and seas hampered the search, but by late afternoon, the weather had improved, though seas were still about 13 to 16 feet (4 to 5 meters) and winds were at about 40 knots (46 mph).

The survivor was taken to the Health Sciences Center in St. John's, Newfoundland.

The helicopter had been heading to the Hibernia offshore oil platform when it went down in what Grychowski called a controlled emergency crash landing.

The pilot reported some technical malfunctions before the crash and radioed that he was turning the chopper around, said Rick Burt of Cougar Helicopters -- the operator of the S-92 Sikorsky copter.

All About Atlantic OceanCanadian Broadcasting CorporationNewfoundland and Labrador

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