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Vaimoana Tapaleao is the New Zealand Herald's Pacific Affairs and People reporter.

Victim's daughter hopes for Erebus trip

Australian company Antarctica Sightseeing Flights plans to fly from New Zealand to Antarctica from February next year. Photo / Supplied
Australian company Antarctica Sightseeing Flights plans to fly from New Zealand to Antarctica from February next year. Photo / Supplied

A woman whose father was among those killed in the Erebus disaster says she will do anything she can to get on the last remembrance flight to the Antarctic for grieving families.

Jackie Mildenhall, 48, was sitting her school certificate exams when the Erebus accident happened on November 28, 1979.

Her father Ian O'Connor and uncle Ronald Brehaut were among those killed.

Now she is hoping she will finally get the chance to see the place where her father and uncle lost their lives, following an announcement this week that Air New Zealand will run one last flight to Antarctica for Erebus families.

Speaking to the Herald yesterday, Mrs Mildenhall broke down as she told how important it was to see the place where her father had died.

"I just really want to go. I want to see the place that they saw last. I just want to be there.

"For years I thought about the crash images [and] heard the news bulletin music in my head.

I've heard from people who have gone to Antarctica that it's a peaceful place. I'd like to get that experience and to find that peace."

Antarctica NZ will host the flight - chartered from Air NZ - on February 6 next year. Depending on weather conditions, family members will stay overnight at Scott Base before returning.

A spokeswoman for Air NZ said it was not yet known exactly how many people would be able to go, but said they would be notified in due course.

Mrs Mildenhall said because her sister's name had been picked out of a ballot for one of the remembrance trips a few years ago, it was unlikely anyone else from their family would be invited this time round.

But she would do all she could to get on that flight, she said.

"You have no idea how frustrating it is. When you see celebrities, politicians and the weather lady down there, it's frustrating. I so desperately want to go - I would pay to go.

"I've seen people who weren't born get on a flight and that hurts. I know they'd like to represent each person who died, but sometimes it's about those people who were directly affected by the tragedy."

Meanwhile, Australian company Antarctica Sightseeing Flights has announced plans to introduce commercial flights from Auckland, starting next year.

The first public flight from New Zealand since the Erebus disaster will accommodate 364 passengers and is scheduled for February 3. Ticket prices start from $1600.

The company has operated 110 flights to Antarctica from Australia over the past 18 years and says many of its customers are from New Zealand.

Director Phil Asker said: "We recognise the sensitivity and we're very conscious about Erebus. But we've carried more than 1000 New Zealanders over the life of our company and they love the experience."

Mrs Mildenhall said she had no problems with the new service.

"I think it's fine. It's a commercial venture and I know lots of people who just want to see the place for what it is."

- NZ Herald

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