A helicopter flying over the Fox Glacier in New Zealand crashed during bad weather last weekend, killing all seven passengers. Four of the victims were British tourists and two were Australian. The pilot, who had 3,000 hours of flying experience, was from New Zealand.
The main body of the helicopter was found crushed between blocks of ice the size of houses and debris from the crash was spread across 100 meters. Rugged conditions made it difficult for rescuers to retrieve the bodies.
The region has experienced bad weather since the beginning of the tourist season, with low hanging clouds and rains. A local official, Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn, told the Telegraph, a British newspaper.
— The Telegraph (@Telegraph) November 21, 2015
Glaciers on New Zealand’s Southern Island have retreated in recent years, forcing tourism companies to fly tourists to glaciers by helicopter, Kokshoorn added. Tourists typically take a ten-minute flight to the Fox Glacier and walk around for half an hour before returning.
Since 2008, there have been seven plane and helicopter accidents on glaciers in New Zealand. Earlier this year a helicopter crashed on the Poerua Glacier in Westland National Park. The three people on board survived. Four tourists survived when their helicopter rolled on the Richardson Glacier in 2014 and in 2013 11 people were rescued when two helicopters collided on the Tyndall Glacier.
— CNN International (@cnni) November 21, 2015
“We’re hurting. It’s a real tragedy today,” Rob Jewell, chairman of the Glacier Country Tourism Group, said in a statement. “We’ll just do what we can to make this as easy as we can for everybody, and obviously our thoughts are with those who lost their lives today and their families and friends.”
Questions have been raised about whether the helicopter should have been allowed to fly under bad conditions. Officials have been sent to the scene to investigate the incident.