The rector who baptised the youngest child of Ruth and Kevin Burke, killed in a helicopter crash while en route to Ireland this week, has said the community in England where they lived is “in disarray”.

Rev Hugh Symes-Thompson, who is based in Cranfield near Milton Keynes, from where the Twin Squirrel helicopter left on Wednesday destined for Dublin, said it was too early for funeral arrangements for a couple he said were enormously popular in the local community.

His words came as specialist teams were hampered by the weather as they sought to recover the bodies of five family members who died when the helicopter crashed in Snowdonia.

North Wales Police said the crash site is “remote and treacherous” and that more than 80 rescue workers and investigators are currently involved.

Kevin, 56, and his Dublin-born wife Ruth Burke, 49, from Hulcote near Milton Keynes, were killed in the crash. The other three passengers killed are understood to be Mr Burke’s two brothers and sister-in-law, Barry, Donald and Sharon.

Police said the victims were adult members of the “same extended family”.

The wreckage of the helicopter was found in the Rhinog mountains near Trawsfynydd on Thursday, following a major search which began on Wednesday. It is understood the party had been due to attend a confirmation service in Ireland.

The Burkes, directors of Staske Construction, have two teenage children.

Chief Inspector Richie Green, of North Wales Police, said the crash site is “remote and treacherous”, with access only possible on foot and that the scene is approximately two hours’ walk over “challenging terrain” from the “last discernible road”.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

He said the force and mountain rescue teams are “utterly determined and focused in recovering all those lost”.

”Over 80 personnel from local and RAF mountain rescue teams, Air Accidents Investigation Branch investigators, HM Coastguard and police are involved and, at this time, the safe, sensitive and prompt recovery of all those lost is our priority.”

A joint investigation led by the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch is now under way, with a “large team of inspectors” gathering evidence on site, according to an AAIB spokesman.

Dewi Pritchard Jones, senior coroner for North West Wales, also told the Press Association that a coroner’s investigation to determine the causes and circumstances of death has been opened.


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