Twist in glacier tragedy

Guides and police at Fox Glacier with family members of the dead tourists. Photo from 'Greymouth...
Guides and police at Fox Glacier with family members of the dead tourists. Photo from 'Greymouth Star'.
A car rental company is insisting the parents of two men killed in an ice collapse at Fox Glacier pay for transporting the rental car - even though the keys were buried with their dead son under tonnes of ice.

Ronnie and Winnie Miranda were still in Christchurch yesterday, arranging to return home to Melbourne after their sons, Ashish (24) and Akshay (22), died under 100 tonnes of falling ice last Thursday.

The parents, struggling to come to terms with their loss, have received support from many quarters.

But rental car company NZRCS is determined to get its money back.

Company director Edwin Chan said it had to recoup about $800 for the car to be transported 418km from Fox Glacier to Christchurch, and hundreds of dollars for a new transponder key to electronically unlock the car.

"Nobody will do it for free," said Mr Chan.

"It's always unfortunate. We feel for them. If there are things that are going to cost the company, we have no choice but to recover the costs.

"They should . . . travel with insurance. It's not up to us as a company to pay for the costs."

The car was meant to be returned on Sunday, but remains in Fox Glacier. The family had not been charged hire costs beyond Sunday.

"The car has to be recovered, and it's not a small cost that is involved."

Mr Chan also questioned why Akshay Miranda had the rental car keys in his pocket when he was not permitted to drive the vehicle.

"It should be in the parents' pockets."

The rental car company's attitude provoked an angry reaction from local police and Victim Support.

Constable Paul Gurney, of Whataroa, said Victim Support had done "untold work" for the family, including help with the costs of a second rental car.

Const Gurney had called the rental car firm to tell it "what I thought".

"Various phone calls were made to that . . . company telling them to have some compassion for these people, because they have just lost their two sons, and there's no way they can do anything.

"We had to drag the car out of the car park on to a tow operator's truck to get it out of there and back into Fox Glacier [village] because they didn't have a second key for it.

"Whoever the boss is up there should have just bit the bullet because these things don't happen very often.

"We have crashes and what not, but this is unique.

"And something should have been worked out where they shouldn't have been billed."

Victim Support's Canterbury/Tasman district manager, Donna Neill, described the company's decision to seek the costs from the family as "regrettable".

Const Gurney said the family were in too much shock to think about the dealings over the rental car.

"But for those of us dealing with them, it annoyed us no end."

The tragedy occurred on Thursday when the two men crossed safety barriers to get a closer look at Fox Glacier, which draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.

Ashish's body has been recovered, but the dangerous conditions mean the prospects of finding Akshay soon are slim.

The parents and their extended family were also charged for a night's accommodation, 200km from Fox Glacier at Greymouth's South Beach Motel, after failing to show up as planned after the tragedy.

Owner Linda Goodson said the family had asked the room be kept open for them in case they needed it.

The parents were instead put up at the Westhaven Motel in Fox Glacier, where owner Kelvin Perriman gave them a discount.

He also covered most of the $300 phone bill.


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