13 Aug 2010

Service held to mark alpine tragedy

8:12 pm on 13 August 2010

A service has been held at the base of Mt Ruapehu to mark the 20th anniversary of one of New Zealand's worst alpine tragedies.

Five army privates and one naval rating died in a blizzard during a four-day army training course on the central North Island mountain in 1990.

The group of 11 trainees and two army instructors became trapped in whiteout conditions just a few hundred metres from a hut they had been trying to reach.

The trainees had been sent on the course as a reward. An army court of inquiry found two instructors lacked the experience to deal with the conditions.

The soldier's commanding officer at the time, Colonel Lofty Hayward, says the army has improved the way it trains its instructors and how it deals with harsh conditions.

About 180 people attended the service at Whakapapa Village on Friday after which wreaths and flowers were laid at a memorial next to the visitor centre.

A function was also held at Waiouru army base.