Irish couple who died in tragic Wales helicopter crash had family ties to Mayo and Dublin

Irish couple who died in tragic Wales helicopter crash had family ties to Mayo and Dublin

EFFORTS to recover the bodies of the five people who died in a helicopter crash in Wales have entered the second day as police say the crash site is only accessible by foot. 

Businessman Kevin Burke, whose father is from Mayo, and wife Ruth Burke, who is from Dublin, were two of the five people killed in the crash on Wednesday.

North Wales Police have confirmed the remaining passengers as Kevin's brother Donald and Sharon Burke aged 55 and 48 respectively and his other brother Barry Burke, 51.

Their bodies were recovered shortly before 3.30pm this afternoon and they have been transported to a mortuary at a local hospital.

According to the Mayo News, the family had left on Wednesday with the intention of attending a family function in Ireland.

The families of the victims are currently being supported by Police Family Liaison Officers from Thames Valley Police.

The Burkes owned Staske Construction and Tubular Erectors for over 20 years and have two children, who were not on board the helicopter that crashed in Wales.

Mr Burke's father Donal had come from Kilcummin in Lacken parish in north Mayo and lived in Britain with his wife Noeleen and their children for a number of years.

Mr Burke Snr had a holiday home in the area and the family visited often, and had an extended family still living in north Mayo.

A spokesman for the family told local newspaper Milton Keynes Citizen:  "Six children have lost their parents in this tragedy.

"At this stage the family wants to be left alone to be able to deal with their grief over this terrible loss and concentrate upon looking after the children."

It's understood the helicopter took off from Hulcote, three miles from their home in Milton Keynes.

When it failed to arrive in Dublin on Wednesday, March 29, a search operation was launched at 4.15pm over the Irish Sea by British Coastguard helicopters based at Caernarfon Bay and St Athan.

But due to low lying cloud, and extremely poor visibility, the helicopters returned to their bases.

North Wales Police and the Mountain Rescue Teams took over the search yesterday morning on the ground in the Snowdonia area of Wales.

As the recovery operation continues into its second day, North Wales Police have said specially trained recovery officers were still being hampered by the weather and terrain.

The recovery operation for the Burkes' helicopter has been hampered by the weather as the crash site is in a remote and treacherous site only accessible by foot. (Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

The crash site, in the Rhinog Mountains of Snowdonia National Park, is "treacherous" and only accessible by foot across four kilometres, police said.

Chief Inspector Richie Green North Wales Police whose policing territory includes the Rhinog Mountains said: “The location of the crash site is both remote and treacherous.

"Access is only possible on foot, the site being approximately four kilometres or two hours walk over very challenging terrain, from the last discernible road and access to this road is only possible with a 4x4 vehicle.

"The site itself, and access to it, is precarious, on a steep slope and covered in heather, lichen and moss which after the recent heavy rain is making just standing upright difficult.

"At over 700m above sea level just getting to the site involves a degree of ‘scrambling’. Weather is unfortunately worsening making the task of getting both personnel and their equipment there alone very difficult and potentially dangerous.”

Phil Benbow, Chairman of the North Wales Mountain Rescue Association who is assisting with the operation, said: “Trained, experienced mountain rescue personnel are finding the terrain difficult and challenging.

"There are no footpaths and the ground underfoot is treacherous in places even for the most experienced however we are all unwavering in our determination to assist reunite the families with those who lost their lives.”

However, Chief Insp Green said both the police and Mountain Rescue Teams are "utterly determined" to recovering the victims so they can be reunited with their families.

"This process, even in perfect conditions is still delicate and methodical as we search for any evidence that could help explain the cause of the crash," he said.

Over 80 personnel from local & RAF Mountain Rescue Teams, Air Accident investigators, HM Coastguard and Police are involved in the search.

Tributes for the victims have poured in as news of their death broke yesterday.

A friend of the Burkes, Damian Wilson said he hoped it was a "bad dream."

"Ruth Burke and Kevin Burke, rest in peace my friends. I just hope I wake up tomorrow and it was a bad dream," he said.

In a picture post on Instagram, model Danielle Lloyd said: "Such sad news about Ruth and Kevin Burke.

"They were two of the nicest people I've ever had the privilege to meet and my thoughts and prayers are with all the family."

Model Danielle Lloyd paid tribute to Ruth and Kevin Burke on Instagram. (Picture: Danielle Lloyd/Instagram)

Bedfordshire Councillors Sue Clark and Ken Matthews said: "We were deeply shocked and saddened to hear the news of the untimely deaths of Ruth and Kevin Burke, who lived in our local area.

"Kevin was not only our constituent but also a colleague, having previously been a Parish Councillor who was clearly very committed to his community.

"At this tragic time our thoughts are with their family and friends, to whom we send our sincere condolences."

An investigation by the Air Accident Investigation Branch is underway and investigators are at the scene to assist forensic recovery of the aircraft.

North Wales Police are appealing to anyone who was in the Rhinog Mountains area of Snowdonia between 12 noon and 1pm on Wednesday 29th March and may have heard or seen the helicopter to contact them via the live web chat or by phoning 101.