A tourism company has offered to pay a car rental company which is insisting the parents of two men killed in an ice collapse at Fox Glacier pay for the transport of a car even though the keys were buried with their dead son under tonnes of ice.
Mr and Mrs Miranda were still in Christchurch yesterday, arranging to return home to Melbourne after their sons, Ashish, 24, and Akshay, 22, died under 100 tonnes of falling ice last Thursday.
Rental car company director Edwin Chan said the firm had to recoup about $800 for the car to be transported 418km from Fox Glacier to Christchurch, and hundreds of dollars for a new transponder key to electronically unlock the car.
"Nobody will do it for free," said Mr Chan.
"It's always unfortunate. We feel for them. If there are things that are going to cost the company, we have no choice but to recover the costs.
"They should ... travel with insurance. It's not up to us as a company to pay for the costs."
The car was meant to be returned on Sunday, but remains in Fox Glacier. The family had not been charged hire costs beyond Sunday.
But a tourism company director has now offered to pay the parent's bill.
Relaxing Journeys managing director Campbell Harris said he will pay the outstanding amount if the car rental company manager gets in contact with him.
Mr Harris said he would not be contacting the manager himself because it sounds like he is being inundated with calls and "is getting a bit pissed off".
"Our travel business promotes the goodwill of all Kiwis and we would like to ensure that goodwill is not tarnished. Who hasn't done something silly in their youth? Most of us are fortunate enough to live, and to have the opportunity to learn our lesson.
"We hope that everyone's visit to NZ is remembered for the right reasons. In this particular circumstance we think the right thing to do is to put this issue to rest and to let the Miranda family grieve in peace," Mr Campbell said.
'Crass' - Key
Meanwhile, Prime Minister John Key has labelled the rental car company trying to recover money from the parents of two dead men as "crass at best".
Mr Key, who is also the Minister of Tourism, said while the company may be legally right, it should show some compassion.
He said charging the family was "crass at best and at the very least, bad business practice".
However, nzherald.co.nz readers have not been as sympathetic.
While one reader has offered to donate money to the parents, many others have said the parents should pay a rental car company outstanding expenses.
A reader calling themselves "all ord" said the family should pay for the car being removed as well as the retrieval of the bodies.
"Lives have been placed at risk trying to retrieve the bodies. Why didn't the parents try to stop the teenagers?"
"JT" from Auckland agrees.
"Yes it's a tragedy - however tragedies occur to tourists all around the world. Thus travel insurance was invented. It's called personal responsibility.
Cameron Wilkes also said the family should pay.
"Should funeral homes not charge for their services because a family member has died and the family is upset?"
It was not all one way. "Jack P" from Auckland said the parents should not be expected to pay.
"With a high profile situation, it is just bad business to charge the extra fees. If it were me running the business, I would not charge the extra fees and in fact, with the sudden loss of both their sons, I would give them the car to use while they were there. I would do it because it is the right thing to do."
A reader calling themselves "PC Poll Climb" said while the cost to the car rental company could be $8,000 in lost revenue, the cost to New Zealand tourism could be $8,000,000
"It had an opportunity to get positive publicity but blew it! It won the war but lost a piece of business. Stupid small minded accountancy solutions aren't necessarily overall business winners."
A UK reader called Jared is about to visit New Zealand and has already discarded one rental car company from his list of potentials.
"I feel sick reading comments going on about the 'rights' of the car company! We know what the law says - has anyone ever heard of compassion or generosity when disaster strikes?"
The story has also been reported in the family's home town of Melbourne under the headline Heartless Kiwis demand parents pay for dead Melbourne brother's bills.
Melbourne Herald Sun readers have also expressed support for the rental car company.
Haley asks: "Should Mr Chan have to go home and say: Sorry kids, you can't have dinner tonight because someone died because they weren't smart enough to follow instructions?"
But it was not all one way in Australia either. A reader calling themselves Gazza suggested the car company should be renamed "cold hearted car rentals".
Another calling themselves "J-Man" writes: "How many times do you get disgustingly exploited in Australia? But you don't see the headline: Heartless Aussies! Simple Kiwi bashing - that's all this is. And for those who say they aren't visiting NZ because of this - don't! No one likes hypocrits who think they are morally superior anyway. Rather go exploit the small oil reserves of east Timor - hmm no headline about that!"