Victims of New Zealand skydive plane crash named

Fox Glacier is a popular destination for tourists and sports enthusiasts

Police in New Zealand have named nine people who died on Saturday in a skydiving plane crash.

Four tourists and five locals were killed when the light aircraft burst into flames soon after taking off from Fox Glacier on the South Island.

Investigators said it could take months to determine what caused the accident, New Zealand's worst in 17 years.

The plane, a Fletcher fixed-wing aircraft, was operated by tourism company Skydive New Zealand.

Investigators 'confident'

Officials said it crashed shortly after leaving the Fox Glacier airstrip on Saturday at about 1330 local time (0130GMT).

Map

On Sunday, police named the four tourists as Patrick Byrne, 26, from County Wexford, Ireland; Glen Bourke, 18, from Melbourne, Australia; Annita Kirsten, 23, from Germany; and Brad Coker, 24, from Farnborough in the United Kingdom.

The New Zealanders who died were pilot Chaminda Senadhira, 33, and skydiving instructors Adam Bennett, 47, Michael Suter, 32, Christopher McDonald, 62, and Rodney Miller, 55, from Greymouth.

They were all from Fox Glacier and well-known in the town.

"Fox only has about 200 people in the community and it is in shock," said Matt Ewen, of Tourism West Coast, told Channel One TV.

"I know the owners, they are very nice people and this is a tragedy for them."

Ian McClelland, head of the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (Taic), said a report on the incident may not be ready for between nine and 15 months.

"But given the availability of the other evidence that is likely to be forthcoming, we are pretty confident we can identify most if not all of the contributing factors," he said.

The crash is thought to be the country's worst aviation accident since October 1993, when nine people died in a plane crash at nearby Franz Josef Glacier.

In 2003, a light aircraft crashed on landing near Christchurch, killing eight people.

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