The federal environment department and a government contractor will fight criminal charges over the death of a helicopter pilot in Antarctica.
The department and Helicopter Resources on Tuesday entered pleas of not guilty in the ACT Magistrates Court to three counts each of breaching federal work health and safety laws.
Magistrate Beth Campbell granted a six-week adjournment so the remainder of the brief of evidence against the defendants could be served.
The maximum penalty for each charge is $1.5 million, the court heard.
Helicopter Resources is contracted by the Australian Antarctic Division, part of the environment department, to provide equipment and pilots in Antarctica.
The charges relate to the death of Captain David Wood, 62, who died of hypothermia in Antarctica in January, 2016.
Mr Wood fell into a crevasse after stepping out of his helicopter during a mission to restock a fuel cache on the western ice shelf on January 11.
The mission to rescue Mr Wood, who was firmly and deeply wedged in the ice, took hours as his colleague had to fly back to Australia’s Davis station for help, a one-hour flight each way.
He was pulled from the crevasse by search and rescue specialists but died of hypothermia the next day.
It is alleged the department and the contractor failed in their duties under work health and safety laws.
An inquest into the death is under way.
The matter will return to court in October.