Addenbrooke’s radiographer killed in New Zealand glacier helicopter tragedy

Katharine Walker
Katharine Walker

A “much respected” Addenbrooke’s Hospital radiographer and her partner have been killed in a helicopter crash in New Zealand.

Katharine Walker, 51, her partner Andrew Virco, 50, both from Cambridgeshire and Nigel Charlton, 66, and his wife Cynthia, 70, who is known as Helen, near Romsey in Hampshire, died along with two Australians and the local pilot in Saturday’s tragedy on the Fox Glacier.

Ms Walker was head of radiotherapy at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, which also treats cancer patients from Bedford, Biggleswade and Leighton Buzzard.

A spokesman for Cambridge University Hospitals, said: “Everyone at the hospital is devastated by the news and our thoughts go out to Kath’s family at this very sad time.

“Kath was a much respected member of staff who had worked at Addenbrooke’s for 23 years and she led the trust’s radiotherapy services with great professionalism, skill and pride.

“We know many of our staff are going to be hit hard by this tragic news and we will be offering additional support for them.”

As well as the British victims, Sovannmony Leang, 27, and Josephine Gibson, 29, both from New South Wales, Australia, died along with helicopter pilot Mitchell Gameren, 28, from Queenstown, New Zealand.

The bodies of four of the victims have now been recovered from the crash site and taken to Christchurch where post-mortem examinations are expected to take place on Tuesday.

But it may be Wednesday before the others are recovered because the weather is expected to worsen during today and Tuesday.

Plans have now been made for the safe staging of crews on the glacier when the operation is able to resume.

Police said on Monday morning local time, Sunday night GMT, that they were unable to get on to the glacier until the weather clears, with Alpine Cliff Rescue team leader Marius Bron describing the ice as “like working on popcorn”.

Reports in New Zealand said Mr Gameren was believed to be an experienced flier, who was piloting the helicopter for Fox Glacier Heliservices, which also trades as Alpine Adventures.

In a statement, the firm said: “Fox Heliservices’ thoughts are with the families of the passengers and pilot. The pilot was a very valued member of our team.

“The New Zealand Police and Civil Aviation Authority have taken over the investigation.”

Fox Glacier is the longest on the west coast of the South Island, travelling from the edge of the Mount Cook National Park in the Southern Alps towards the west coast on the Tasman Sea.