Police speak of "challenging terrain" in Snowdonia helicopter crash body recovery operation


Dale Spridgeon

SPECIALLY trained ‘recovery’ officers from North Wales Police and mountain rescue teams are still being hampered by both weather and terrain as they painstakingly recover those who died in Wednesday's helicopter crash.

Officers have spoken of the difficulty of the terrain in their efforts to recover the five bodies from the crash site in Snowdonia's Rhinog Mountains.

Chief Inspector Richie Green of 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 4km or a 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.”

“That said both Police and Mountain Rescue Teams are utterly determined and focused in recovering all those lost as quickly and as sensitively as possible 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.   

“Over 80 personnel from local & RAF Mountain Rescue Teams, AAIB investigators, HM Coastguard and Police are involved and at this time the safe, sensitive and prompt recovery of all those lost is our priority.”

“The families of the five people on board the aircraft are being supported by specialist Police Family Liaison officers from Thames Valley Police but formal identification has yet to take place.   Our thoughts and condolences remain with them.”

“I’d like to pass on our thinks to the local communities for their continued support and patience and to those who have phoned the Police with information.  

We are also hugely indebted for the continued commitment and professionalism of the volunteer Mountain Rescue Teams and Police personnel who are operating in very difficult and distressing conditions. I’d also like to thank the media and greater community’s respect to the family’s and emergency services in refraining from visiting the area which allows our personnel easier access.    

The temporary exclusion zone over the crash site with a height of 5500 foot above sea level and a 5 nautical mile radius remains in place”

Phil Benbow, Chairman of the North Wales Mountain Rescue Association, 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.”  

A joint investigation led by the AAIB (Air Accident Investigation Branch) is underway and investigators are at the scene to assist forensic recovery of the aircraft.   

As part of the investigation North Wales Police are appealing to anyone who was in the Rhinog Mountains area of Snowdonia between 12 noon and 1pm on Wednesday, March 29 and who may have heard or seen the helicopter to contact them via the live web chathttp://www.north-wales.police.uk/contact/chat-support.aspx or by phoning 101.”

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