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Media Advisory 18-016

Two contract employees die in Antarctica

Cause of incident under investigation

The U.S. Antarctic Program logo.

The U.S. Antarctic Program logo.

December 12, 2018

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

Two fire technicians at the National Science Foundation's McMurdo Station in Antarctica have been pronounced dead following an incident at a generator building that powers a radio transmitter near the station.

The incident, which still is under investigation, occurred on Dec. 12 local time (McMurdo Station keeps New Zealand time).

NSF is not releasing any personal information about the deceased at this time. Their next of kin have been notified.

The workers were performing preventative maintenance on the building's fire suppression system. They were found unconscious on the building's floor by a helicopter pilot. The pilot was on the ground and the helicopter was shut down, waiting for technicians to complete their work. When they did not return to the helicopter at the agreed-upon time, the pilot hiked up to the hut to check on them. They were removed from the building and CPR was administered. One person was pronounced dead at the scene by medical personnel who arrived from the McMurdo clinic. The other was flown to the McMurdo clinic and pronounced dead there a short time later.

The workers were employed by PAE, a Virginia-based subcontractor to Leidos, the Colorado-based logistics contractor to the NSF-managed U.S. Antarctic Program.


This press release was updated with new information Dec. 13, 2018.


Media Contacts
Peter West, NSF, (703) 292-7530, email:

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2023 budget of $9.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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