Cause of Fox Glacier crash still unknown

Seven people died in the crash
Seven people died in the crash
Investigators still aren't any closer to determining what caused a tragic helicopter accident that killed seven people at Fox Glacier on Saturday.

Police say that each day more snow will cover the wreckage and bodies, making it harder for them to see, but they believe bad weather will prevent them from getting to the crash site until Wednesday.

Today teams could only organise, check and recheck and their gear as the weather prevented any attempts at recovering the three bodies remaining on the Glacier.

“We are going to need a substantial break in the weather because we have done the easy bits with the recovery so far from helicopters, but now we are going to have to put boots on the ice,” says West Coast Inspector John Canning.

They will have to set up a camp and platform above the crash site and rope teams down to the wreckage to retrieve bodies. The operation could take hours, and volunteers with knowledge of the area say it’s challenging and dangerous terrain.

 “If you imagine a giant bowl of popcorn, the ice is all stacked up and unstable with lots of gaps in there - that's what you’re dealing with,” says LandSAR team leader Marius Bron.

“The site is covered in crevasses, ice cliffs crevasses that are up to 20 metres deep at this stage, that we know of, there's vertical ice, lots of flakes and it’s very unstable and it’s moving.”

But they know the area.

“We train hard for these sorts of situations, even though we don't really want them to happen of course,” says Mr Bron.

Investigators still don’t know what caused the crash.

“We've also begun formal interviewing of witnesses. That includes the company, other pilots, other people involved with the operation of the aircraft and that work's going to be continuing throughout the week,” says Insp Canning.

The bodies of three of the victims have been taken to a mortuary for formal identification.

Tributes have been pouring in for Queenstown pilot Mitch Gameren.

The 28-year-old had been piloting six tourists when the helicopter crashed.

Among them were two British couples. Katharine Walker and Andrew Virco were on a dream holiday to celebrate turning 50, and it was to be a final big adventure for grandparents Nigel and Cynthia Charlton.

The other two tourists were from Sydney - Josephine Gibson and her partner Sovannmony Leang.

It’s now a case of waiting and checking for any signs the weather might clear so teams can make their way up to the top.  

3 News