British backpacker killed in New Zealand helicopter crash found eight years later
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Police in New Zealand are conducting DNA tests on a body they believe is British tourist Hannah Timings, from Gloucestershire, after finding the wreckage of a helicopter which went missing eight years ago.
Hannah, who was 28, from Cheltenham, and local Kiwi pilot Campbell Montgomerie, 27, were flying in Fiordland, a remote part of the country on the South Island, when they crashed.
Police said the helicopter, which was found on Wednesday, was the Hughes 500 that went missing in 2004. An extensive two-week search at the time failed to turn up any sign of the missing aircraft.
Hannah had just left a job in London working for Viscount Linley's furniture business to go on a six-month backpacking tour around New Zealand.
She set off with Campbell on a helicopter tour of New Zealand's South Island peaks on 3 January, 2004. They were taking the picturesque trip from Queenstown to the famous beauty spot, Milford Sound, which is very popular with tourists.
An extensive two-week search at the time of the crash was hampered by bad weather, and failed to show any sign of the wreckage or the couple, despite rescuers spending 204 flying hours and 2,300 man hours on the search.
Bryan Nicholson, a spokesman for the British High Commission in New Zealand, said at the time that trying to find them really was like trying to find "a needle in a haystack".
The wreckage was spotted this week by a pilot on a scenic tourist flight. Brendan Hiatt, from Glacier Southern Lakes Helicopters, said: "I just spotted something glinting that just didn't look quite right amongst the snow, so I said "we'll just take a look".
"It's happened before, where you see a glinting rock or something that you go in closer for a look at. We got close and it was pretty evident what it was."
A specialist police team, including alpine cliff rescue members, recovered two bodies and are hoping to formally identify then with DNA samples.
They said they hoped the discovery would bring some closure to Hannah's family.
But dad Philip Timings, 65, said he was actually struggling to come to terms with the news.
He told the Daily Telegraph: "It's like digging up the past nine years all over again. People say it will give me closure but I'm not sure, it's just bringing it all back."
Describing Hannah as "one in a million", Mr Timings, who runs a furniture business, said he still missed her and thought about her every day.
Hannah studied furniture and international retailing at Bournemouth University, securing jobs at Laura Ashley and Habitat before working for Viscount Linley.
Mr Timings, who said she was "a chip off the old block", also described Hannah as a keen traveller. He last spoke to her just days before the crash. "She rang me on Christmas Day and said her and Campbell were just off to the Fiordland [the area where the wreckage was found] and that she was very excited about it all. She told me how beautiful it was."
A spokesman for Viscount Linley's business said: "We were deeply saddened to hear this tragic news. We will always remember Hannah fondly – she was a lovely girl.
"We hope her family will find some respite in knowing what happened. Our thoughts and prayers are with them."
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