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Saturday, 19 January, 2002, 22:34 GMT
New Zealand air crash probed
Crashed plane. Photo: AP/Southland Times
There were no survivors from the crash
An investigation has begun into what caused a sightseeing plane to crash in New Zealand, killing all six people on board - including a British couple.

The single-engine Cessna 207 aircraft hit a mountain on Fiordland Sounds, on the South Island.

The Britons who died have been identified as Gordon and Angela Ross, aged 34 and 29, from Shandwick, near Tain, in the Scottish Highlands.

The whole community is devastated and in shock. It is unbelievable

Ross Balfour, family friend
They were on a scenic flight from the town of Te Anau to the Milford Sound fjord when their plane slammed into the mountain at 11am Saturday local time (2030GMT, Friday).

Air Fiordland, the company operating the sightseeing trip, said the crash killed the 26-year-old pilot and five passengers - including the two Britons, two Canadians and a New Zealander.

It is understood that Gordon and Angela Ross were in New Zealand visiting Mrs Ross's parents who had emigrated from Aberdeen almost 30 years ago.

Oil worker Mr Ross and his wife had been in the middle of a three month visit when the tragedy happened.

'Can't take it in'

Family friend Ross Balfour, from nearby Hilton, in the Highlands, said: "The whole community is devastated and in shock. It is unbelievable.

"You feel it more in a small place like this and I just can't take it in.

The Air Fiordland single-engine Cessna 207 went down in fine weather
"My son Philip told me they were dead. It was shocking."

He added: "Everybody knows each other here and our sympathy goes out to the family."

Locals say Mrs Ross and her family emigrated from Aberdeenshire when she was only six months old.

She returned to Scotland about six years ago when she met Gordon and the couple married last year at Fearn Abbey in the Highlands.

All six bodies have been removed from the crash scene - which is being guarded by police - and an investigation is likely to begin within 24 hours.

Parents informed

Mr Ross's parents, who live in Singapore, and Mrs Ross's parents have been informed of the deaths.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said a post mortem examination would be carried out on Monday.

Wreckage was found on the Gertrude Saddle, a grassy clearing high in the mountains, 11km (seven miles) from Milford Sound.

The plane had hit the hillside at 1,400 metres (4,500 feet), about 60 metres (200 feet) below the summit of the mountain.

Air Fiordland chief executive Russell Baker said: "I have no idea what could have gone wrong.

'Experienced pilot'

"It was a clear day with beautiful skies."

He paid tribute to the plane's 25-year-old pilot, Andrew Robins.

"Andrew was an experienced pilot and highly skilled and I can't even think what could have happened," said Mr Baker.

According to a Radio New Zealand reporter, eyewitnesses said that the plane was flying unevenly shortly before the crash.

Police began a search after the plane after the plane failed to arrive at Milford and was reported overdue.

The BBC's Tony Morris
"A sightseeing trip that went horribly wrong"
See also:

19 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
New Zealand plane crash kills six
05 Nov 01 | Scotland
Pilot describes Cessna crash
27 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
Australia plane crash kills four
06 Sep 99 | Scotland
FAA acts over Cessna safety concerns
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