6 Killed in New Zealand Plane Crash
Jan. 19, 2002
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WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) _ Five tourists and their young pilot died Saturday when their sightseeing plane slammed into a mountain in southern New Zealand, officials said.
The Air Fiordland single-engine Cessna 207 was on a scenic flight from Te Anau to the pristine fiord of Milford Sound, said Russell Baker, the company's chief executive.
Two Canadians, two Britons, and two New Zealanders died in the crash.
A Te Anau police spokeswoman identified the New Zealanders as the plane's 25-year-old pilot, Andrew David Robins, of Queenstown, and 21-year-old teacher Wayde Leslie Clarke, of Christchurch.
The British Foreign Office said the two Britons who died were Gordon Ross, 34, and his wife Angela, 29, from Shandwick in the Scottish Highlands.
Police were working with Canadian authorities to advise relatives of the Canadian tourists, and were seeking more information on the other victims.
The six bodies were to be retrieved from the mountain crash site later in the day, the spokeswoman said.
The plane was found by searchers shortly after 11 a.m. near Gertrude Saddle, a grassy clearing high in the mountainous, forest-covered Fiordland district south of the tourist center of Te Anau.
``I have no idea what could have gone wrong. It was a clear day with beautiful skies. (The pilot) was an experienced pilot and highly skilled and I can't even think what could have happened,'' Baker said. ``We only know at this stage that he flew into the side of the mountain.''
The plane was heading toward Milford Sound, a crystal-clear fiord about 465 miles south of the capital, Wellington, that attracts thousands of tourists.
Police began searching for the plane after it failed to arrive at Milford.
The Transport Accident Investigation Commission will inspect the crash site Sunday, police said.
According to its Web site, Air Fiordland operates 10 Cessna planes flying tourists over the beautiful wilderness in New Zealand's southwest corner.
The fatal crash was the second for Air Fiordland. The first occurred Dec. 30, 1989, when two Cessna 207s, each carrying a pilot and six Japanese tourists, collided over Milford Sound.
One aircraft landed safely but the Air Fiordland plane plunged into the sound, killing all seven aboard.
On the Net:
Air Fiordland: www.airfiordland.co.nz
New Zealand promotional site: www.purenz.com