Our deepest condolences are extended to all the families and friends of the people who died in the Fox Glacier helicopter crash shortly before 11 am on Saturday.
There were two couples from the UK – Nigel Edwin Charlton, 65 and Cynthia Charlton 70 from Romsey in Hampshire. Mr Charlton was a dentist; Andrew Virco 50, and Katherine Walker 51 were from Cambridge. Ms Walker was head of radiotherapy at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, a teaching hospital with strong links to the University of Cambridge.
The two people from Australia who died were Sovannmony Leang, 27, and Josephine Gibson, 29 who were from New South Wales.
So far, due to atrocious weather conditions, only 3 bodies have been recovered from the crash site.
The tourists were on board a sight seeing flight operated by Alpine Adventures who have come in for criticism for flying in poor weather in mountainous terrain.
Bad weather forced Alpine Adventures to cancel morning trips over Fox Glacier before the fatal flight and police have hinted that weather may have played a role in the crash. Authorities say no mayday alert was broadcast before the crash and scorch marks could be seen high above the crash site.
Last flight off the mountain, wet conditions
American photographer Alex Baranada was with another tour group on a Glacier Helicopters flight on Saturday at the time of the crash. He said
“I was in the last group that got off the mountain. There was another flight after bringing the guides back. It was a bit wet but it was a good tour.”
It was only after Baranda’s tour group was safely on the ground they learned the next tour due to leave at 11.50am had been cancelled.
“The pilot nor the guides didn’t say anything if they knew something. We rode the bus with the guides to the office from the heli pad, but nothing indicated a sombre atmosphere…
The professional sports photographer, from San Francisco, had tried to book a heli-hike with Glacier Helicopters on Thursday but it was cancelled due to bad weather. source
Alpine Adventures was involved in a previous incident in June when their Hughes 369 helicopter crashed while trying to take off in the mountains. The Civil Aviation Authority is still investigating that incident.
The latest helicopter crash comes weeks after it emerged that a 2012 Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) investigation into the 2010 Fox Glacier parachuting crash, in which 9 people died, was flawed. Overseas relatives of some of the victims have been highly critical of TAIC’s handling of the investigation. It also emerged that some of the deceased dive-masters had used cannabis shortly before the flight.
After the high number of deaths and injuries involving their own nationals, the British and Australian governments gave travel warnings about New Zealand which have remained in force for some years.
British FCO advice for New Zealand
There have been a number of tragic accidents involving British visitors, including during extreme sports activities. If you are taking part in extreme sports check that the company is well established in the industry and that your insurance covers you. If you are visiting remote areas, check with local tourist authorities for advice before setting out. Make sure you register your details with a visitor information centre or leave details with family or friends. Weather conditions can quickly become treacherous in some areas. Keep yourself informed of regional weather forecasts. source
Australian advice about New Zealand
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