It’s been confirmed five members of the same extended family died in a helicopter crash in Snowdonia.
Two of the victims have been named locally as Kevin and Ruth Burke from Hulcote, near Milton Keynes. The couple ran a construction firm, which was the registered owner of a Twin Squirrel helicopter.
It’s believed Mr and Mrs Burke were flying with three other family members – believed to be Mr Burke’s two brothers and one of their wives – en-route from Luton to Dublin for a christening. Mrs Burke was born in the Irish capital and Mr Burke, originally from Manchester, was a qualified pilot.
The wreckage of the helicopter was discovered by a mountain rescue team in the Rhinog mountains near Trawsfynydd on Thursday after the aircraft had lost radar contact in Caernarfon Bay on Wednesday afternoon.
In a short statement, a spokesman for the Burke family said: ”Six children have lost their parents in this tragedy. At this stage, the family wants to be left alone to be able to deal with thier grief over this terrible loss and concentrate upon looking after the children.”
North Wales Police said all efforts to recover the bodies from the scene had to be suspended overnight because of deteriorating weather conditions and the treacherous terrain surrounding the site of the crash.
Superintendent Gareth Evans repeated a call for the public to stay away from the area: ”The location is not easily accessible for vehicles and so we are asking for the local and greater community’s continued support in staying away from the immediate area to allow emergency services and personnel access. Whilst we are undertaking the removal of the bodies, we ask the family’s privacy and dignity during this process be respected and repeat our notification that a temporary exclusion zone over the crash site with a height of 5500 foot above sea level and a 5 nautical mile radius is currently in place. In short, we are advising to keep away from the immediate area so together with the AAIB we can gather all the evidence to help establish how this tragic event occurred.”
Police added they were unable to confirm the identity of the five victims but the next-of-kin were being supported by specialist liaison officers from Thames Valley Police.
Forensic experts are due to begin examining the site as part of a joint air accident investigation once the recovery operation of the five people on board is completed. An investigation has been opened by Dewi Pritchard Jones, the coroner for North West Wales.
The initial search for the helicopter involved two Coastguard aircraft from Caernarfon and RAF St Athan between the North West Wales coast and the shores of Dublin – but efforts later turned to a land search over Snowdonia, involving police and seven mountain rescue teams.