A tourist sightseeing helicopter crashed into a crevasse on the Fox Glacier in New Zealand’s South Island on Saturday morning, killing all six passengers and the pilot.
Four British and two Australian tourists died, along with the pilot, who came from Queenstown in New Zealand. The Britons who died were two men and two women from southern England, while the Australians were a man and woman from South Australia.
New Zealand Police recovery teams yesterday removed three bodies from the crash site and are hoping to recover the other four bodies today.
Police search and rescue coordinator Sergeant Sean Judd said they were assessing the situation by the hour. Bad weather hampered initial progress.
The glacier is popular with tourists and the helicopter that crashed was reportedly a Eurocopter ‘Squirrel’ operated by local firm Alpine Adventures, an experienced helicopter flight-seeing company active in the area since the early 1980s.
Alpine Adventures’ website says it is the only 100% locally owned and operated helicopter company licensed to land at all designated landing sites within Westland National Park. The company’s Fox and Franz Joseph Glacier scenic flights operate year round and include a snow landing on a glacier.
The cause of the crash is being investigated.
A report in yesterday’s Sunday Star Times in New Zealand said the helicopter’s pilot, Mitch Gameren, had notched up almost 3000 flying hours around the world, including for a safari operator in Botswana and more recently as a Medivac pilot in Malaysia.
Gameren had returned from Malaysia only a month ago to resume his ‘summer job’ at Franz Josef for Alpine Adventures, the paper reported.
Written by Peter Needham