29 Nov 2009

Erebus group on Antarctic excursion

1:31 pm on 29 November 2009

Family members of Erebus disaster victims are taking part in an excursion in Antarctica on Sunday as part of the commemorations of New Zealand's worst air disaster.

All 257 passengers and crew on board a Air New Zealand DC-10 sightseeing flight perished when it crashed into the side of Mt Erebus in Antarctica 30 years ago on Saturday.

On Saturday memorial services were held at Scott Base, at Air New Zealand's headquarters in Auckland and the company's operations base in Christchurch.

Saturday was also the anniversary of the 2008 Air New Zealand Airbus crash in the Mediterranean near Perpignan in southern France, which killed seven people, including five New Zealanders.

Representatives of six families affected by the Erebus disaster have travelled to Antarctica to attend the memorial service and to visit the crash site.

Frances Kell, whose father died in the crash, says there has been a sense of bonding and unity at the commemorations in Antarctica and the experience has been a big step forward in helping the grieving process.

"It's been really good getting together, because before this weekend I'd never met anybody who'd also lost somebody in that accident - and that in itself has been really good.

"Most of my family have gone to Auckland for the service and I hope that they've had a really good chance to mix and talk to other relatives at the same time."

Family members and staff working in Antarctica will visit historic huts at Cape Evans and Cape Royds and visit icebergs and glacial tongues on Sunday.

On Monday, the group will make another attempt to fly to the crash site in helicopters, after high winds prevented a landing on Friday.

The group is expected to lay a koru-shaped sculpture by Phil Price at the site containing messages from families that could not travel to Antarctica, before returning to New Zealand on Monday afternoon.