Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Fox Glacier crash: Three bodies recovered

Helicopter wreckage wedged between house-size blocks of ice.
Nigel Edwin Charlton and Cynthia Charlton. Photo / Facebook
Nigel Edwin Charlton and Cynthia Charlton. Photo / Facebook

The bodies of three of the seven victims of the Fox Glacier helicopter tragedy have been recovered from the crash site.

Police this afternoon said the bodies had been taken to a nearby temporary mortuary facility for formal identification, which may take a number of days.

Meanwhile, weather conditions at the glacier have deteriorated and the recovery operation has been halted for the day.

Police earlier today released the names of the six tourists who died in the crash alongside 28-year-old pilot Mitch Gameren.

Mitch Gameren and six tourists died when his helicopter slammed into Fox Glacier. Photo / Greymouth Star
Mitch Gameren and six tourists died when his helicopter slammed into Fox Glacier. Photo / Greymouth Star

Among them were two couples from the UK.

They were Andrew Virco, 50, and Katharine Walker , 51, of Cambridge, and Nigel Edwin Charlton, 66, and Cynthia Charlton, 70, of Hampshire.

Two Australians from Sydney - Sovannmony Leang, 27, and Josephine Gibson, 29 - also died in the crash.

Stephanie Llano is a family friend of Mr Leang and got to know him during summers spent in Australia with her family.

She is currently studying in New Zealand and told the Herald she was shocked to hear he had died.

He and Ms Gibson were here on holiday. The couple had been together about a year and loved travelling.

"He was a very kind guy, very ambitious - just a top bloke really," she said.

"He felt like a family member even though he wasn't family."

Mr Leang sold cars for a living, Ms Llano said, and had a large family.

He had "many" brothers and his parents lived in Sydney.

She said her extended family in Australia were in deep shock over his death.

"I went on Facebook this morning and I saw people were posting pictures of him and RIP messages. I thought they were just being silly...

"Sevonne was a really nice guy, we will really miss him."

Ms Walker and Mr Virco are survived by adult children.

Ms Walker was the head of radiotherapy at Addenbrooke's Hospital.

In her biography on the hospital website, Ms Walker said she had worked there for 23 years.

"I've worked my way through plenty of different roles in radiotherapy, from treatment planning and scanning, to radiotherapy itself and clinical tutoring.

"A big part of what I do here is to work nationally, raising its profile and demystifying it. I have a lot of administrative duties as well, including recruitment and procurement, which are all a part of the process and things that I enjoy, but what gives me the most satisfaction is the tangible result of all our hard work."

Katharine Walker was the head of radiotherapy at Addenbrooke's Hospital. Photo / Supplied
Katharine Walker was the head of radiotherapy at Addenbrooke's Hospital. Photo / Supplied

Ms Walker celebrated her 50th birthday in March.

Photographs on her Facebook page show her enjoying her birthday party with family and friends.

The Charltons were from Romsey in Hampshire, England.

According to his Facebook page, Mr Charlton attended medical school from 1968 to 1973 and it is understood he studied dentistry and owned his own private practice for many years.

The couple are survived by adult children and it is understood they had a number of grandchildren.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop confirmed New Zealand authorities had been in touch with her about the deaths of Ms Gibson and Mr Leang.

"On behalf of the Australian Government, I extend our deepest condolences and sympathies... We are providing consular assistance to their families," she told ABC News.

The pilot's sister, Brooke Gameren, wrote a tribute message to her brother on Facebook.
"I love you heaps...Fly high."

Mr Gameren's good friend Kyle Paterson also wrote short heartfelt messages on Facebook, and shared a picture of Mr Gameren with the words "RIP my old friend."

"I always think of Mitch with that cheeky smile and mischief shining from his eyes," another family friend wrote online.

"He was the best of the best...Loved him dearly like my lil bro," yet another friend posted.

Mr Gameren's stepfather Kelly Bray said this morning he was still awaiting further news from authorities about the search.

He remembered him yesterday as an "all-round good guy".

"He loved the outdoors. He enjoyed the West Coast because he liked the hunting and fishing side of it."

Family, friends and colleagues posted numerous online tributes for Gameren last night.

Friend and fellow pilot Jamie Henery posted on Facebook: "For those who have been asking I am okay. Very sad day. For we have lost a good man and friend. Please excuse me if I do not call back or respond."

Christina Olayan wrote: "He was my hero! And will be for an long time to come! Love you like a brother Mitch!"

"Bro, I'm choked up. Love that guy. Love you too man. No words," added Evan McWhirter.

- Herald on Sunday

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 26 Jul 2016 10:50:03 Processing Time: 527ms