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Five members of same family killed in helicopter crash over Snowdonia mountains 'on way to Christening'

Mirror logo Mirror 31/03/2017 Mari Jones

(INS News Agency Ltd)

(INS News Agency Ltd)
© Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc

Five members of the same family are reported to have lost their lives in the North Wales helicopter crash while on their way to a Christening in Dublin.

Kevin and Ruth Burke were in the red Twin Squirrel aircraft when it vanished from radar yesterday afternoon, close friends said.

"Six children have lost their parents in this tragedy," a spokesperson for the tragic victims said.

It is believed the couple were joined by Ruth's brother and his wife, as well as Kevin's brother, according to the Milton Keynes Citizen.

Today, police confirmed the wreckage of the helicopter had been located in Snowdonia, along with the bodies of five people.

The tragic discovery followed a major search by mountain rescue teams after the helicopter failed to arrive at its destination.

The privately-owned chopper - registered to a construction company and rented out to film crews - was midway into a 250-mile trip.

This afternoon, loved ones were paying tribute to Kevin and Ruth on social media, with one writing: "Words cannot describe my shock and grief."

The couple - who run Milton Keynes-based Staske Construction Ltd. - are said to have two children, a son and a daughter.

The identities of the three other people onboard the helicopter remain unclear, and none of the victims have yet been formally identified.

It is believed that the helicopter was due to land in Weston Airport on the border between Dublin and Kildare, Ireland after re-fuelling in Wales.

Kevin and Ruth are said to have been visiting Kevin's family.

Speaking outside the couple's home in Milton Keynes, a man who described himself only as a close friend and refused to give his name, said: "They were both in the machine, yes."

Another close pal appeared close to tears when asked about the family.

He said: "Now is not the time."

Superintendent Gareth Evans, of North Wales Police, said specialist officers were supporting the five victims' families.

But he said the details of the victims were not being released by police.

In a tweet this afternoon, North Wales Police said: "Sadly we can confirm that the wreckage of the helicopter that went #missing yesterday has been located along with the bodies of 5 people."

In a statement, the force added that the aircraft's last known position was initially believed to be "over sea" in the Caernarfon Bay area.

"This was then narrowed to a land based search coordinated by North Wales Police in Snowdonia" involving local and RAF Mountain Rescue Teams," it said.

It continued: "Local conditions were described as atrocious with visibility down to less than 10 metres in places."

The wreckage of the helicopter was found in a remote location in the Rhinog mountains, near Trawsfynydd, the Daily Post reports.

The exact crash location is not currently being disclosed so the bodies of the five victims can be recovered, police said.

"The exact location is not being revealed at this time to allow a dignified and unhindered recovery of the bodies in what is described as very difficult and challenging terrain," said Supt Evans.

The aircraft had earlier departed from the Luton area. It was thought to be travelling to Dublin via Caernarfon Bay.

Distress and Diversion lost radar contact with the aircraft yesterday afternoon.

After contacting all airbases with no sightings or radio contact, the U.K. Coastguard were notified at 4:15 p.m. to start a search operation.

The shipping forecast for routes across the Irish Sea described visibility as "occasionally very poor."

Two U.K. Coastguard search and rescue helicopters based at Caernarfon and St. Athan were initially scrambled to scan the area between Caernarfon Bay and the Dublin shore yesterday.

But the search was later scaled back due to poor weather conditions.

A Mayday Relay broadcast was also issued to all vessels passing through the Irish Sea route to contact the Coastguard if they had seen anything.

North Wales Police said "a full sea and then land search and rescue operation" was launched after the aircraft disappeared.

The five bodies and wreckage were later discovered, although it is unclear at exactly what time or place they were found.

It is thought that everyone on board the helicopter died in the tragedy.

Supt Evans expressed his thanks to "the professionalism and commitment of all those personnel" involved in the operation.

"Formal identification has not taken place so details of the passengers are not being revealed at this time," he said.

"Families of those on board the aircraft are being supported by specialist Police Family Liaison Officers.

"Our thoughts are very much with them and on their behalf I ask you respect their privacy at this very difficult time.

"The terrain where the aircraft has been located is remote and in places hazardous."

He said officers from Thames Valley Police were in contact with the families of the five victims.

He also thanked the local community for their support and assistance, but asked people to refrain from visiting the area.

An investigation, led by the Air Accident Investigation Branch, is under way to establish what led up to and caused the crash.

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