Family hit by glacier tragedy asked to pay for car keys

January 14th, 2009 - 2:14 pm ICT by IANS  

Wellington, Jan 14 (DPA) When Australian Akshay Miranda, 22, was buried with his brother under a collapsing ice shelf on a New Zealand glacier, he had the keys of the family’s rental car in his pocket.Akshay’s body remains trapped under tonnes of ice at the Fox Glacier, but the rental company is billing his parents, Ronnie and Winnie Miranda of Melbourne, hundreds of dollars for a new transponder key and for towing the car 418 kilometres back to its base in Christchurch.

“Nobody will do it for free,” company director Edwin Chan told reporters Wednesday. “We feel for them.”

But he added: “If there are things that are going to cost the company, we have no choice but to recover the costs.”

The demand provoked controversy in New Zealand, where Prime Minister John Key dubbed it “crass” and bad business practice, and in Australia where media slammed “hard-hearted Kiwis”.

An anonymous good Samaritan moved late Wednesday to defuse the row, promising to pay the bill, put at 2,000 New Zealand dollars (about $1,120) when all the incidentals were totalled up.

Earlier local constable Paul Gurney said he had appealed to the company to have compassion and waive the charges.

Writers to the New Zealand Herald’s website had little sympathy for the family, however, one asking why the parents had not stopped Akshay and his brother, Ashish, 24, who ignored warning signs and climbed over a barrier to get closer to the glacier.

“Yes, it’s a tragedy - however, tragedies occur to tourists all around the world. Thus, travel insurance was invented,” wrote one. “It’s called personal responsibility.”

Another writer asked: “Should funeral homes not charge for their services because a family member has died and the family is upset?”

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