updated 3/13/2009 8:07:11 PM ET 2009-03-14T00:07:11

Canadian search and rescue crews ended their search on Friday night for 16 missing people, a day after a helicopter with 18 people on board plunged into the sea while en route to offshore oil facilities.

Rescue official Maj. Paul Doucette said crews quit searching nearly 34 hours after the helicopter went down about 30 miles off the coast of Newfoundland.

One survivor and the body of another person were found after the Sikorsky S-92 issued a distress call and ditched into the sea Thursday morning.

Maj. Denis McGuire of the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre said police and Transport Canada were taking over what has been classified as a recovery mission.

"We've gone beyond that 24-hour life expectancy time for someone in an immersion suit," McGuire said.

Mike Cunningham, lead investigator for the Transportation Safety Board, said the helicopter will be raised from the ocean floor, an operation that could take about a week.

Crews worked overnight with the help of night-vision goggles, but there were no signs of more survivors.

Rescuers had held out hope because those aboard were believed to be wearing survival suits, which serve as life preservers and retain body warmth in frigid waters.

The survival window is about 24 hours with the suits and water-activated locator beacons, but McGuire said there had been no signals from the beacons. He also acknowledged that rescuers were less likely to find anyone now that 24 hours have passed.

Survivor 'showing signs of recovery'
Two life rafts were spotted in the water early Thursday amid debris from the helicopter that was spread over a six-mile area, but rescuers later confirmed they were empty.

Survivor Robert Decker is at St. John's hospital where he's reportedly being treated for a broken bone and hypothermia. He was listed in critical but stable condition in the hospital's intensive care unit.

"He's showing signs of recovery," said Trevor Pritchard, general manager of Husky Oil, operator of the Sea Rose floating production vessel in the White Rose oil field.

The pilot of the helicopter had reported mechanical problems, but the cause of the crash was still being investigated. The crew of a Provincial Airlines aircraft flying over the area reported seeing the craft floating upside down a few minutes after the crash.

The helicopter was en route to the Hibernia oil platform, about 200 miles east of St. John's. The helicopter had also planned to visit the nearby SeaRose oil platform.

The Transportation Safety Board's Cunningham said it's possible that balloons could be placed under the helicopter and then inflated to raise it to the surface. But before that happens, he said a remote submersible machine equipped with cameras will be sent to the ocean floor as soon as Saturday to examine the wreck.

The crash came less than a month after a helicopter ferrying oil workers crashed into the North Sea off Scotland. All 18 aboard were rescued from the chilly waters after the aircraft landed upright a few hundred yards from the oil platform and was kept afloat by inflatable bags that deploy when the craft lands on water.

The Canadian S-92 Sikorsky helicopter, described as no more than four years old, had the same safety features when it went down 55 miles southeast of St. John's, the provincial capital, said Rick Burt of Cougar Helicopters, the operator of the aircraft.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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