Five family members killed in helicopter crash

Friends in Co Mayo were expecting aircraft owner Kevin Burke to visit this weekend

Five members of a family with strong Irish connections have died after their helicopter crashed in north Wales.

The helicopter was en route to Weston Airport in Dublin when radar contact was lost and it crashed amid poor visibility on Wednesday afternoon.

Police, emergency services and air accident investigators on Thursday reached the site of the crash in the Rhinog mountains in Snowdonia National Park.

The recovery effort is ongoing but North Wales police said it may have to suspend operations overnight due to “worsening weather conditions and the difficult and treacherous terrain in the area”.

The five victims are all adults and part of the same extended family from the Milton Keynes area in Buckinghamshire, police said.

They have not yet been formally identified but their families are being supported by specialist police.

Among the dead were businessman Kevin Burke, his wife Ruth Burke, and three other close relatives.

It is believed Ms Burke was originally from Dublin and her husband was the son of a Co Mayo man.

The couple had an address at Brook Farm in Hulcolte, near Milton Keynes, from where the helicopter is thought to have taken off.

Relatives and friends of the Burke family in north Mayo expressed shock at the news, and described how Kevin and Ruth Burke had been expected to visit the west this weekend.

Locals said Kevin Burke and his brothers Barry and Donal were frequent visitors to Kilcummin in Killala Bay.

Their father Donal was from Kilcummin and emigrated with his Dublin-born wife Nolly to England, where he worked as a contractor.

The three brothers, and a sister who lives in the US, returned to Kilcummin for summer holidays as children, and maintained their Mayo links.

“They used to park the helicopter here locally,”one family friend said.

Terrible loss

Members of the family were expected to stay in their parents’ house, now a holiday home, this weekend, neighbours said.

The five passengers were said to have been coming to Ireland for a family event.

Mr Burke is reported to have owned the red Airbus Twin Squirrel helicopter through his company, Staske Construction Limited.

He is said to have been an experienced pilot who flew to Manchester on an almost daily basis.

A family spokesman said: “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.”

Initial UK Coast Guard search efforts were concentrated on Caernarfon Bay, the area of the Irish Sea immediately south of Angelsea.

When no wreckage was sighted, the search switched to land and the wreckage and bodies were found on Thursday.

Additional reporting: PA