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Safety plea over plane-death Briton

The British father of a man "needlessly" killed in a plane crash with eight others in New Zealand has called on the country's prime minister to review aviation safety.

Chris Coker, whose son Bradley died in 2010 while trying skydiving, said that adventure tourists to New Zealand will not be safe until better regulation is enforced and that young people should "think twice" before pursuing any adventure activities in the country.

His call comes after an air accident investigation report found that at least two of the tandem-master crew who would accompany the skydivers in the aircraft had taken controlled drugs and one had taken cannabis during that day's operations.

The report was critical of the Civil Aviation Authority in New Zealand which it said did not do enough to monitor the safe operation of the company and called on the New Zealand government to introduce testing for drugs and alcohol.

Web designer Mr Coker, 24, from Farnborough, Hampshire, boarded the Walter Fletcher FU24 light aircraft operated by Skydive NZ at Fox Glacier, South Westland, on September 4 2010.

The aircraft was a 30-year-old badly converted crop sprayer with a new engine but it was overloaded and none of the passengers were wearing a seat belt, which is allowed under New Zealand regulations, the report said. The aircraft took off and reached 400 feet before the pilot appeared to lose control and the aircraft nosedived to the ground and burst into flames. All nine occupants were killed.

New Zealand law does not allow companies to be sued in the courts for negligence and has no criminal offence of corporate manslaughter. Compensation is decided by the New Zealand Accident Compensation Corporation, the sole and compulsory provider of accident insurance in New Zealand, which determined the death of Bradley Coker merited compensation for the family of £2,744. This compensation did not even cover the cost of the repatriation of Mr Coker's body to the United Kingdom.

His father has written to New Zealand PM John Key. In the letter he said: "Bradley's death was completely avoidable and needless. The circumstances that led to his death are a shocking catalogue of behaviour that would be regarded as negligent in every civilised country in the world...and amply demonstrates the lack of proper regulation and control and the need for urgent and fundamental reform in the way this kind of activity in New Zealand is monitored, controlled and regulated."

The three other tourists who died were Glen Bourke, 18, from Australia; Patrick Byrne, 26, from Ireland and Annika Kirsten Schmidt, 23, from Germany. The five New Zealand crew who died were pilot Chaminda Senadhira, 33, and skydiving instructors Adam Bennett, 47,; Christopher McDonald, 62; Rodney Miller, 55, and Michael Suter, 32.

An inquest in New Zealand into the death of Bradley Coker will be held in August.


From Belfast Telegraph