AN  inquest was formally opened yesterday (Thursday) into the deaths of five family members when a helicopter plunged into a mountain in Snowdonia.

A coroner at Caernarfon adjourned the hearing into the tragedy of the members of the Burke family – from the Bletchley and Milton Keynes areas.

Mountain rescuers made the grim discovery of the wreckage of the red Twin Squirrel helicopter in “challenging terrain” last March after a major search in the Rhinog mountains in a remote area between Trawsfynydd and Harlech.

The Twin Squirrel copter had been flying to Ireland for a family event, having taken off from Hertfordshire. At first it was thought the aircraft may have come down in the sea, but after no automatic beacon had been activated the hunt was switched to the mountains, with seven rescue teams taking part. Driving rain and low cloud reduced visibility to ten yards in places.

Those who died were brothers Barry Burke, 51, of Milton Keynes, Donald, 55, and wife Sharon, 48, of Bletchley, and Kevin, 56, and wife Ruth, 49, of Hulcote.

At the controls was Kevin Burke, described as an experienced pilot. The crash happened in strong winds and low cloud as the family party was on its way to Ireland to celebrate the confirmation of a niece.  

Coroner Dewi Pritchard Jones said :"Tragically they were all in a helicopter which crashed on March 29 at Rhinog Fawr."

The coroner said the Air Accident Investigation Branch was running the inquiry and would in due course publish a report. The inquest was adjourned, probably until next year.

No family were present for the hearing.