Snowdonia helicopter crash: Weather hampers recovery of victims

Andy Hayes and Bethany Minelle, News Reporters

Specialist teams are being hampered by bad weather as they work to recover the bodies of five family members who died in a helicopter crash in Snowdonia.

North Wales Police said the crash site is "remote and treacherous" and that more than 80 rescue workers and investigators are currently involved.

The wreckage of a helicopter and five bodies were found in the Rhinog mountains near Trawsfynydd on Thursday.

Feared to be among the dead are Kevin and Ruth Burke, from Hulcote near Milton Keynes, who are understood to be the directors of Staske Construction Ltd in Bletchley.

The couple are also the registered owners of a Twin Squirrel helicopter, the same model as that which disappeared from radar contact while flying over Caernarfon Bay on Wednesday afternoon.

Mrs Burke is believed to be originally from Dublin, the helicopter's intended destination.

Mr Burke, who is reported to be from Manchester, is a former Hulcote and Salford parish councillor and a qualified pilot.

A neighbour of the couple, Elizabeth Thornley, said they had not lived in their home in Hulcote long, and had been "doing up the house for about a year-and-a-half".

Mr and Mrs Burke are believed to have a 14-year-old son and a 19-year-old daughter.

Formal identification of those on board the helicopter is yet to take place, but their families are being supported by police family liaison officers.

The other victims have been named in reports as Mr Burke's two brothers and sister-in-law.

The Irish Independent reported they were on their way to a family confirmation service when the helicopter crashed.

The recovery was suspended overnight, but despite restarting on Friday police have said the search is still being hampered.

Chief Inspector Richie Green, of North Wales Police, said the crash site is "remote and treacherous", with access only possible on foot and that the scene is approximately two hours' walk over "challenging terrain" from the "last discernible road".

"The site itself, and access to it, is precarious, on a steep slope and covered in heather, lichen and moss which, after the recent heavy rain, is making just standing upright difficult," he said.

"At over 700m above sea level, just getting to the site involves a degree of 'scrambling'.

"Weather is unfortunately worsening, making the task of getting both personnel and their equipment there alone very difficult and potentially dangerous."

He said the rescue teams were "utterly determined and focused in recovering all those lost".

A temporary exclusion zone over the crash site with a height of 5,500 ft above sea level and a five nautical mile radius is currently in place.

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch will lead an investigation.

Airbus Helicopters - the manufacturers of the Twin Squirrel, a popular utility helicopter used by police forces and private charter companies - have said they are "standing by to provide support".

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