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Helicopter crash recovery effort may be suspended due to bad weather

Rescue workers may have to halt the recovery of the bodies of five passengers, who died when their helicopter crashed in Snowdonia, due to adverse weather.

North Wales Police said it may have to suspend the rescue effort overnight due to "worsening weather conditions and the difficult and treacherous terrain in the area".

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.

An investigation led by the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) is also under way.

Superintendent Gareth Evans, of North Wales Police, said: "Owing to the nature and remoteness of the terrain, the poor weather conditions and the absolute need to carry out this delicate task with sensitivity and dignity this may take some time."

He went on: "This is a very difficult, challenging and hazardous operation but I'd like to reassure the families of the deceased and local communities that, together with the AAIB and our mountain rescue teams, and weather permitting, we will continue to work as long as it takes until they are all recovered and to this end I'd like to repeat my thanks to all those personnel involved for their professionalism and commitment."

The five victims are all adult and part of the same extended family from the Milton Keynes area, the force said.

They have not yet been formally identified but their families are being supported by specialist officers from Thames Valley Police.

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

Neighbour Elizabeth Thornley, who said the couple "keep to themselves", told the Press Association she saw a lot of cars near the house on Thursday morning.

The 24-year-old 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 crashed."

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."

Mr Evans said the exact location of the crash site was not being revealed to allow recovery of the bodies.

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.

An Airbus Helicopters spokesman told the Press Association: "Airbus Helicopters regrets to inform that it has received reports of a fatal AS355 accident in North Wales.

"As an Airbus Helicopter aircraft commonly known as a Twin Squirrel, the company is standing by to provide support as required and our thoughts are with the victims of the accident and their families."


From Belfast Telegraph