FOUR British tourists are believed to have been killed in a helicopter crash on a glacier in New Zealand, police said.
They died along with two Australian tourists and the pilot of the aircraft after it came down on the Fox Glacier, on the country’s South Island, officials said.
It came down into a crevasse at around 11am yesterday local time (midnight GMT), hampering rescuers’ efforts to reach it.
A picture released by New Zealand Police showed the crumpled wreckage in a ravine at the bottom of a wall of ice close to the top of the eight-mile glacier.
Helicopter trip company Alpine Adventures, which is based near the popular tourist attraction, confirmed its aircraft was involved in the incident but a spokesman declined to comment further.
New Zealand Police said recovery will take place today, with a spokesman saying: “Police believe the passengers in today’s helicopter crash on Fox Glacier were six foreign tourists.
“It is believed two were Australians and four were from the United Kingdom. Formal identification of those people will take some time.
“Police have been liaising with the embassies of the countries concerned to ensure the next of kin are advised of the situation.”
The Rescue Co-ordination Centre New Zealand said it sent four rescue helicopters to the scene, on the west coast of the island – two from Christchurch, one from Greymouth and one based locally, the latter with a cliff rescue team on board.
Police said the crash site’s location meant rescuers had initially not been able to reach it. It is understood that a paramedic was later winched down but found no survivors.
Inspector John Canning, the police west coast area commander, told New Zealand’s One News: “It’s at the top of the glacier and it is heavily crevassed, so very rough country, and it is going to take a lot of care to get the people out of there.”
Alpine Adventures’ website says it has been in business for around 30 years and runs “an impressive fleet of modern turbine helicopters”.
Fox Glacier is the longest on the west coast of the South Island, travelling from the edge of the Mount Cook National Park in the Southern Alps towards the west coast on the Tasman Sea.
Grey district mayor Tony Kokshoorn said the weather was “marginal” at the time of the crash, with intermittent rain showers and low cloud.
“It was not ideal for helicopter flying,” he told them.
In September 2010, British web designer Bradley Coker, 24, died in a plane crash near the Fox Glacier, along with eight other people who were on a skydiving trip.
Coker, from Farnborough, Hampshire, was on board a Walter Fletcher FU24 light aircraft operated by Skydive NZ. The aircraft reached 400ft before the pilot appeared to lose control and the aircraft nosedived to the ground and burst into flames. All nine occupants were killed.
An accident report found that the 30-year-old badly converted crop sprayer was overloaded and none of the passengers were wearing a seat belt, which was permitted under New Zealand’s regulations.