The body of an Italian researcher who died in a diving accident in Antarctica last week has arrived in Christchurch awaiting repatriation.

Luigi Michaud, 40, died during a diving accident last Thursday near the Italian research station Mario Zucchelli, on the coast of Terra Nova Bay in the Ross Sea.

The accident occurred while he was diving to collect underwater marine samples used to study Antarctica bacteria, an Italian government website reported.

Italian embassy cultural attache Daniela Da Napoli said Mr Michaud's body arrived in Christchurch yesterday on an American flight from McMurdo Station.


The body would be sent back to Italy once the appropriate paperwork had been completed, she said.

"We're now in the process of preparing all the documentation for the repatriation in Italy."

The investigation into Mr Michaud's death would take place in Italy because he died at an Italian base.

Antarctica New Zealand spokesman Ed Butler said they had offered their full support to the Italian Antarctic programme.

"The Italians are working with us and a bunch of other national programmes to make sure the body's repatriated and sent back to Italy," he said.

Police national headquarters spokesman Grant Ogilvie said they were assisting the Italian authorities and the New Zealand coroner in relation to the death.

"Police will continue to provide assistance in repatriating the body to Italy and gather any necessary information relating to the death for the relevant authorities," he said.

A research fellow at the University of Messina, Mr Michaud arrived at Zucchelli on January 9 to carry out research under a project aimed at developing new antibiotics for the treatment of cystic fibrosis, the Italian government website reported.


He was survived by his wife and two children.