A preliminary autopsy report suggests the three men who died in a Canadian Coast Guard helicopter crash last week in the Arctic were overcome by exposure to the icy water.
Cathy Menard, the chief coroner in the Northwest Territories, said Wednesday the post-mortem examinations have found the men died from "cold-water immersion."
The findings suggest the pilot and passengers survived the crash but died later in the freezing water.
"First you have the shock of going into the water, the gasp for breath, the muscle spasms, and then you have the cold incapacitation where your arms and legs don't want to move very well. The third stage, you go into hypothermia," Menard said.
The men have been identified as helicopter pilot Daniel Dube; Marc Thibault, commanding officer of the coast guard's Amundsen ship; and Klaus Hochheim, an Arctic researcher from the University of Manitoba.
Menard said the men were wearing emergency suits when the helicopter crashed. Investigators are still probing how long the men were in the water before emergency crews arrived.
The twin-engine BO-105 helicopter, based on the icebreaker ship Amundsen, crashed Sept. 9 during a routine check of the ice in the M'Clure Strait, 675 km west of Resolute Bay, Nunavut.
The Amundsen is used as part of the climate change research program ArcticNet.
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is investigating the cause of the crash.