The wife of a helicopter pilot who died in Antarctica last year after being left for hours in a crevasse has praised her husband’s bravery while criticising the “inefficiency of the system” responsible for his rescue.
David Wood, 62, died in January 2016 during a routine trip to a fuel dump in Antarctica’s western ice shelf.
An inquest into his death has opened in Canberra and is considering whether delays in his rescue contributed to his death.
The court heard the accident happened after Mr Wood stepped out of the aircraft.
He called out to the other pilot to get help, and was left alone while his colleague flew back to Australia’s Davis station to get a rescue team.
The court heard Mr Wood was in the crevasse for about four hours.
The inquiry will also look at the adequacy of his clothing, policies for rescue arrangements and leaving a person needing rescue on their own.
Mr Wood’s wife Mary MacDonald told the court her husband had been uninjured in the fall, and would have been calculating the time it would have taken for rescuers to arrive.
“He knew he was in good shape for a timely rescue,” she said.
“He was the bravest, most physically tough person I have ever known and when he fell in that crevasse he became braver still.
“But unbeknownst to David and me, the inefficiency of the system pushed him deeper into that crevasse.”
The inquest heard that when rescuers arrived Mr Wood was able to talk to them, but later lost consciousness.
He died the next day at the base.
Ms MacDonald told the court it was to be her husband’s last trip as he had saved enough money for their children to go to university and for the pair to retire.
“The way forward is blocked without the truth,” she said.
“If there’s change for the better because of this death then that’s a good thing.”
The inquest will view footage of the accident collected from the helicopters, and hear from those who made crucial decisions on the day.