Fox Glacier families hope for answers
Mon, 13 Aug 2012 6:06p.m.
By Jessica Rowe
There's been an emotional start to the inquest into the Fox Glacier skydiving accident in which nine people died nearly two years ago.
Bereaved families have travelled from all around the world, wanting answers for why the flight went so wrong just after takeoff.
What was supposed to be a thrilling skydive adventure ended in disaster when a converted top-dressing plane plummeted to the ground near the Fox Glacier air strip, killing all nine people on board.
Pamela Bennett lost her son, dive master Adam Bennett, in the tragic crash and has come over from Australia to find out what happened.
“If it is found that this is preventable and because something hasn’t been done, that is much harder for people to start rebuilding their lives,” says Ms Bennett. “It has to be done.”
Out of the nine on board, four were tourists from Australia, England, Ireland and Germany, who were travelling on a Kiwi Experience bus tour.
Eighteen-year-old backpacker Glen Bourke was visiting from Australia. His mother wants to know who is responsible for taking her son away from her.
“New Zealand was to be a trip of a lifetime,” says mother Karen Bourke. “Glen ventures off and I was proud as punch.
"Glen loved life and never did risky things. To do skydiving would have been a calculated risk, and he had every right to be safe."
Glen Byrne lost his brother Patrick in the plane crash, and has come all the way from Ireland to attend the inquiry.
“We can only hope that lessons are learned from this instance, and no family has to go through the horrific heartache we've now had,” says Mr Byrne. “He was known to us as Paddy, a great lad. We miss him every day.”
Earlier this year, a Transport Accident Investigation Commission report found modifications to the converted top-dressing plane contributed to the crash. It was also overweight and off balance.
Five staff from Skydive New Zealand were also on the plane, including company director Rodney Miller. He had been flying for 32 years and his son Jake says he was a stickler for safety.
“I personally do not believe in what TAIC's report has come out with,” says Jake Miller. “We don't believe that is the cause of the accident, and we are here to see some concrete evidence.”
Sixteen witnesses will be called at the inquiry, which is set down for the rest of week.
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