Wellington: New Zealand police on Sunday named
nine people, including four foreigners, who died when a
skydiving plane crashed and burst into flames at the remote
Fox Glacier tourist spot.
In the nation`s worst air accident in 17 years, the plane
crashed shortly after takeoff yesterday at an airstrip near
the glacier on the west coast of New Zealand`s South Island.
There were no survivors.
The Fletcher FU24 turbine-powered plane, operated by
tourism company Skydive New Zealand, was carrying a pilot,
four skydive instructors and four tourists.
Police named the tourists as Patrick Byrne, 26, from
County Wexford, Ireland; Glen Bourke, 18, from Melbourne,
Australia; Annita Kirsten, 23, from Germany; and Brad Coker,
24, from Farnborough in the United Kingdom.
The New Zealanders who died were pilot Chaminda
Senadhira, 33, and skydiving instructors Adam Bennett, 47,
Michael Suter, 32, Christopher McDonald, 62, and Rodney
Miller, 55, from Greymouth.
A Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC)
investigation into the crash was to begin today.
Police said the plane crashed at the end of the runway
then burst into flames. Witnesses said it was briefly airborne
Locals said conditions appeared perfect for skydiving
near the glacier, a central attraction in the UNESCO-
designated World Heritage area.
The disaster was the worst air tragedy in New Zealand
since nine people also died in a plane crash in October 1993
at nearby Franz Josef Glacier.
The following year, seven people died when a sightseeing
helicopter crashed near Fox Glacier, and in 2003 a chartered
Piper Navajo Chieftain crashed on landing near Christchurch in
2003, killing eight people.
The west coast of New Zealand`s South Island attracts
thousands of tourists annually, brought to the area by the
stunning mountain scenery and fjords.
Travellers, many of them from abroad, support a
burgeoning tourism industry catering for a range of interests,
including high-adrenaline sports and trekking.