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Model Danielles tribute to Irish family killed in helicopter crash as bodies of victims recovered

By Ralph Riegel and Tom Shiel

Relatives have spoken of their heartbreak at the death of five members of a UK-based Irish family in a helicopter crash in Wales.

Atrocious weather conditions including rapidly deteriorating visibility are now considered key factors in the tragedy.

The revelation came as UK rescue officials defied appalling weather in the Rhinog mountains in Snowdonia in north Wales to recover the bodies of brothers Kevin (56), Barry (51) and Donald Burke (55) as well as Kevin's wife, Ruth (49), and sister-in-law, Sharon (48).

The helicopter crashed on Wednesday en route to a family confirmation service in Dublin.

Their bodies were found with the wreckage of the helicopter in the Rhinog mountains near Trawsfynydd on Thursday, following a major search which began on Wednesday when the privately-owned aircraft failed to arrive in Dublin.

Mayo publican Noel Collins, a cousin of the Burke brothers, said the Kilcummin area was shocked.

"They would be here (in the pub) tomorrow (Saturday) night if things had gone right," he said.

"Kevin would go out farming with me as a lad, making turf, saving hay. In later years, like the others, he would help out in the bar. There was no one (around here) friendlier with the lads than me."

All five died instantly when the Airbus/Eurocopter Twin Squirrel light helicopter being flown by Kevin Burke crashed into a remote part of Rhinog mountain.

Six children lost both parents in the tragedy.

British model and celebrity TV star, Danielle Lloyd, paid tribute to Kevin and Ruth Burke with whom she was very friendly. She said: "They were two of the nicest people I've ever had the privilege to meet and my thoughts and prayers are with all the family."

The family group had been flying from Luton, north of London, to Weston Airport in Lucan, Dublin.

North Wales Police Chief Inspector Richie Green admitted weather conditions were appalling for the recovery effort. More than 80 personnel were involved in the operation.

Now the bodies have been recovered, a joint investigation led by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) "will begin in earnest", Mr Green said.

The police said they and the AAIB are hoping to begin recovery of the helicopter over the weekend, weather permitting.

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