'Five members of same family' killed in Snowdonia helicopter crash

Fiona Simpson
Sad loss: Ruth Burke is believed to have died in a helicopter crash in Snowdonia: Facebook

Five members of the same family are feared to be among the victims of a helicopter crash in Snowdonia.

North Wales Police said five bodies were found along with the wreckage of the helicopter in the Rhinog mountains near Trawsfynydd on Thursday.

A major search of the area was launched on Wednesday afternoon when the privately-owned Twin Squirrel aircraft failed to arrive in Dublin.

Kevin and Ruth Burke, from Hulcote near Milton Keynes, close to where the helicopter took off, are directors of Staske Construction - the registered owner of a Twin Squirrel.

The couple, along with members of their extended family, are thought to have died in the crash.

Search: Vehicles parked outside the Llanberis Mountain Rescue station (PA)

Neighbour Elizabeth Thornley said the couple had not lived at their home long and had been "doing up the house for about a year and a half".

The 24-year-old, who said the couple "keep to themselves", added that she saw a lot of cars near the house on Thursday morning.

She said: "Then one of the neighbours said 'have you heard about the crash, the helicopter crash?' I thought it had crashed into a horse's paddock, but they said no Kevin's had a crash."

Five dead: a mountain rescue vehicle in the search for victims

On what is thought to be her Facebook profile Mrs Burke states she is originally from Dublin, the city which should have been the final destination of the helicopter.

One Hulcote resident, who did not give his name, said Mr Burke was originally from Manchester, a pilot himself, and had a 14-year-old son and 19-year-old daughter.

Another neighbour, Richard Mann, said he and Mr Burke had both previously been Hulcote and Salford parish councillors.

He said: "Kevin, I think, is a very astute businessman, outgoing, hail fellow well met, always seemed very cheery."

Superintendent Gareth Evans, of North Wales Police, said the crash victims had not yet been formally identified but their families were being supported by specialist officers from Thames Valley Police.

He added: "I'm sure you'll appreciate this is an agonising time for the families and friends of all involved.

"Our thoughts are very much with them at this time."

Mr Evans said the exact location of the crash site was not being revealed to allow recovery of the bodies from the "very difficult and challenging terrain".

A full investigation into the cause of the crash will be led by the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) and a team of inspectors has been sent to the site.

An extensive search of the Irish Sea and Snowdonia was launched at about 4.15pm on Wednesday after the distress and diversion system lost radar contact with the aircraft.

Mr Evans said: "Initially, it's last known position was believed 'over sea' in the Caernarfon Bay area but this was then narrowed to a land-based search coordinated by North Wales Police in Snowdonia involving all local and RAF mountain rescue teams.

"Local conditions were described as atrocious with visibility down to less than 10 metres in places.

"My thanks go out to the professionalism and commitment of all those personnel involved in this operation."

Additional reporting by Press Association.