14 Aug 2012

Families share grief, anger over Fox Glacier crash

12:45 pm on 14 August 2012

The inquest into a skydiver airplane crash that claimed nine lives has heard of the devastating effect the accident has had on the families of those who died.

The pilot, four skydive masters and four tourists died in the crash at Fox Glacier, which occurred on 4 September 2010, the same day as the first Christchurch earthquake.

Karen Bourke, whose son Glenn died, talked about his father dying of cancer when he was only 11 and how this encouraged her son to make the most of life.

Annika Kirsten's parents said in a statement sent from their home in Germany that the loss of their only daughter had destroyed their family.

They said the police managed to retrieve the data card from their daughter's camera which survived the crash and the explosion that followed.

The last picture on the card was of their daughter in her skydiving outfit just moments before she got on the plane.

Mark Byrne, the brother of one of the four tourists, Patrick Byrne, travelled from Ireland for the inquest.

He says his family is angry about the lack of accountability for what happened and hopes the hearing will help ensure other families don't have to go through what his family has.

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission has already blamed the crash of the skydive plane on modifications to the aircraft and the failure of the Civil Aviation Authority to properly monitor skydive operators.

'We lost nine in one hit, it was huge'

Grant Gibb of the Fox Glacier Community Development Society has told Radio New Zealand the deaths took a real toll on the community.

Mr Gibb says he can remember clearly the day the plane came down.

"The Christchurch earthquake happened on the very same day. I was sitting in the office here at Fox and rolled back in my chair, looked out the window, [saw] a huge column of smoke and realised something really bad had happened - and within 20 minutes it was all over the screen on the computer.

"We lost nine in one hit, so it was huge."

Mr Gibb says there has been no noticeable decline in the number of tourists visiting Fox Glacier since the crash.

Son had right to be safe at work - mother

The mother of a skydive master who died in the crash says her son had a right to expect he would be safe carrying out his job.

Pamela Bennett, who has travelled from Australia for the hearing, says somebody needs to be held accountable for the incident and for the death of her son Adam.

Mrs Bennett says nine good people have been lost and as many families have been shattered.

She says while police have decided not to lay charges, civil action by some of the families is still a possibility.