An update to the Fox glacier helicopter crash over the weekend is sobering. According to a Telegraph report, all seven occupants — pilot and passengers — aboard a copter that went down in New Zealand have been identified. Moreover, only three bodies have been recovered from the mountainous crash site. Officials have not released their names as of this writing.
Authorities at the Fox Glacier crash site say two British and Australian couples, and a 28-year-old helicopter pilot died when the turbine engine craft crashed in Westland Tai Poutini National Park, which is located on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island.
NZ helicopter crash: seven on board, rescue teams rush to Fox Glacier. https://t.co/klYWi4zBNk pic.twitter.com/yMcPmJ0wxn
— The New Daily (@TheNewDailyAu) November 21, 2015
Andrew Virco, and Katharine Walker of Cambridge were celebrating their birthdays; both turned 50-years-old. Nigel Charlton, 66, and his wife Cynthia, 70, hailed from Hampshire. Additionally, New South Wales residents, Sovannmony Leang, 27, and Josephine Gibson, 29, perished in the crash at Fox Glacier, according to NZ Herald.
Emergency staff members have the task of recovering the remaining occupants aboard the helicopter. Not only is the wreckage wedged between large slabs of glacial ice; the area where the aircraft crashed is in treacherous terrain. Further, workers face high winds, steep elevation, and frigid conditions, according to Inspector John Canning.
“It is pitted with crevasses. It is ice, it is slippery, it is cold, and … we have severe weather forecast for the next two days.”
Local authorities say Saturday’s weather conditions were “not ideal for helicopter flying.” However, media sources say flying was not deemed dangerous at the time; several other pilots took off and landed safely with groups of tourists on the same day.
A spokesperson with the Fox Glacier helicopter company released a statement about the crash and said the pilot was “a very valued member of our team.”
“Fox Heli Services’s thoughts are with the families of the passengers and pilot.”
Although the fatal crash is unsettling, it’s not the first time the popular destination has been marred by tragedy. Because the area is known as one with the most access for viewing and traversing glaciers, it attracts about 30,000 visitors annually. Sadly, there have been several crashes over recent years, this being the latest.
This story is developing.