SHANGHAI, April 12 (Xinhua) -- Rescuers have lifted out of water the wreckage of a helicopter which served China's Antarctic exploration ship, Xuelong.
The plane crashed in the East China Sea off Shanghai Sunday, two days after Xuelong returned to the city from its Antarctic mission.
The wreckage was out of water at 10:55 p.m. Sunday, about two and a half hours after divers found the wreckage almost a nautical mile from the crash site, said Sun Fumin, director of the East China Sea Rescue Bureau of the Ministry of Transport.
The rescue boat shipped the wreckage to a nearby port. The search for the missing mechanic was continuing, Sun said.
Four crew members, all men, were aboard the helicopter when it crashed near the estuary of the Yangtze River at about 11:20 a.m., said a spokesman for the China Marine Search and Rescue Center.
The helicopter made an emergency landing from a height of about50 meters and floated on the sea for a couple of minutes before sinking.
Three, including the pilot, co-pilot and a mechanic, were rescued and rushed to hospital, the spokesman said.
"One man is in serious condition and the other two are stable," Zhang Guotong, president of the Shanghai Municipal No. 7 People's Hospital, told Xinhua.
Zhang added that the one in intensive care also was out of danger after regaining consciousness from short coma.
More than 10 rescue boats were involved in the search for the missing mechanic, Yang Yongchang, and the helicopter, Sun said.
"The water is muddy and it is getting dark, which increase difficulties for the search," Sun said. "We have to redouble the efforts and use advanced equipment."
The ship-based helicopter was rented by the Xuelong, or "Snow Dragon," which was moored at a Shanghai dock at the time of the accident. The helicopter crashed just a minute after taking off from the vessel, according to the China Marine Search and Rescue Center.
"Thick fog shrouded the sky when the crash happened," said a spokesman with the Shanghai frontier defense inspection authorities.
But the exact cause of the crash is yet to be determined. The Harbin Aircraft Industry Group Co. and its subsidiary, China Flying Dragon Special Aviation Company, owner of the plane, have sent staff to assist the investigation.
Carrying 140 scientists, technicians and crew, the Xuelong left Shanghai in October for a 173-day trip, the longest in China's Antarctic expedition history.
The expedition team had successfully erected a new research station at Dome Argus (Dome A), the pole's highest icecap at 4,093meters above sea level.
They left China's Zhongshan Station for home on March 9 and arrived at Shanghai on April 10.
The helicopter flew more than 153 hours during the just-concluded Antarctic expedition. It also had assisted two more scientific expeditions to the Antarctic and North Pole from 2007 to 2008.