26 Nov 2015

Last bodies, wreckage lifted off Fox Glacier

8:55 pm on 26 November 2015

The last three bodies have been recovered from the site of Saturday's Fox Glacier helicopter crash, with key parts of the wreckage also retrieved.

A recovery team made it onto Fox Glacier during a break in the weather on 25 November 2015.

An image of the recovery team on the glacier yesterday. Photo: SUPPLIED / NZ Police

Seven people died when the helicopter crashed onto the glacier. Four bodies were recovered the next day but bad weather had hampered efforts to retrieve the remaining three.

Air accident investigators said the key parts of the helicopter were also retrieved today.

A break in the weather yesterday gave teams about two hours to do preparation on the ice, such as cutting a track down to the wreckage.

West Coast Area Commander Inspector John Canning said a 23-strong recovery team flew onto the glacier at first light, and Alpine Cliff Rescue members reached the wreckage this morning.

Alpine Cliff Rescue team leader Marius Bronn said they had to watch every step they took.

"The popcorn-like ice, I've used that term before but it really is unstable, it's moving and it's noisy, the glacier's creaking and groaning a bit," he said.

"It's steep and slippery, so you're just on high alert all the time."

The last members of the recovery team returned from the glacier this afternoon.

Fox Glacier recovery effort Wednesday 25 Nov 2015

All seven bodies have now been recovered. Photo: RNZ / Sally Murphy

Transport Accident Investigation Commission spokesperson Peter Northcote said the helicopter wreckage was airlifted from a glacier crevasse.

They were satisfied they had the major physical components that would be of the most interest for their investigation, he said.

Drone footage taken yesterday showed the wreckage was widespread.

"There is smaller debris spread out over the area about the size of a rugby field, it is heavily crevassed, there are multiple ice and other hazards but the intention is that we'll do our very best to recover evidence or parts of the aircraft that might be of most use to an investigation."

Mr Northcote said some of the smaller pieces of wreckage might have to stay on the glacier.

The seven people on board the flight were: Andrew Virco, 50, and Katharine Walker, 51, from Cambridge, England; Nigel Edwin Charlton, 66, and Cynthia Charlton, 70, of Hampshire, England; Sovannmony Leang, 27, and Josephine Gibson, 29, of New South Wales, Australia; and New Zealand pilot Mitch Gameren, 28.

Commercial flights to the glacier have resumed but a no-fly zone remained in place around the crash site.

The wreckage of the helicopter on Fox Glacier.

The helicopter wreckage was airlifted from a glacier crevasse. Photo: NZ Police

A single bunch of flowers by the entrance to the Fox Glacier on 26 November 2015.

A single bunch of flowers by the entrance to the Fox Glacier. Photo: RNZ / Sally Murphy

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