British climber Robert Buckley cremated in New Zealand after accident because mother could not afford to fly son’s body home

31-year-old, was killed after slipping more than 2000 feet while climbing to Sefton Bivvy in Mount Cook National Park


A Briton who died in a climbing accident in New Zealand more than a week ago, has been cremated in Christchurch after his mother revealed she could not afford to fly her son’s body home or attend the funeral herself.

Robert Buckley, 31, from Shoebury in Essex, was killed after slipping more than 2000 feet while climbing to Sefton Bivvy in Mount Cook National Park on September 14.

His mother, Gill Ray, a part-time cleaner, said she was heartbroken that she did not even have the money to fly to New Zealand for the funeral service.

She told Echo newspaper in Essex that it would have cost £5000 to fly his body back to Britain, after his travel insurers refused to cover the bill because of a technicality.

“I was really angry about it, but it is hard to think straight at the moment to be honest,” Ms Ray added.

“Flying 24 hours to get there, knowing what we’re going there for, is not something I want to go through and of course the cost of flying there is another thing I can’t afford,” she told the newspaper.

The family had initially hoped to bring the body home, as he had taken out travel insurance.

“They looked into it but said because he wasn’t resident in the UK for six months before he took out the policy they wouldn’t cover it,” Mr Buckley’s mother explained.

Robert, who had been working as a drain layer in New Zealand, was farewelled at a cremation ceremony attended by friends and workmates in Christchurch on Monday.

His family now intend to fly his ashes home for a memorial service.  The dead Briton, an engineer, had been travelling since 2010 and is understood to have been engaged in work created by the Christchurch earthquake.

Mr Buckley had been about 200 feet from Sefton Bivvy when the accident happened.

He was with three other young men who were also attempting the climb when he slipped on ice and fell.

Police said later that the party was “insufficiently” equipped and inexperienced for the climb.

“They had hired some climbing equipment early that day and had managed to get within 80 metres of the bivvy,” a spokesperson added.

Poor weather hampered rescue teams and emergency services were unable to recover the body until the following day. Police said the fall was “unsurvivable.”

At more than 11,000 feet,  Mount Cook is the highest peak in New Zealand’s south island. Set in the Southern Alps, the Mount Cook National Park attracts thousands of tourists.

Mr Buckley’s tragic fall caused an outpouring of sympathy among New Zealanders, with several people offering financial help.  But it came too late for his family who resigned themselves to not being able to attend the funeral.

Talking to her local newspaper while shuffling through old photographs of her son, Ms Ray said, “It is such a hard time. I can’t get used to talking about him saying how he “was” instead of he “is.”

It is the second tragedy to hit the family recently.

Last year Robert flew home to England after his father died suddenly.

Monday’s small cremation ceremony for the young British engineer was arranged by a friend in Dunedin.

He was the second person to die in the Aoraki Mt Cook National Park in the space of two days.

Earlier a ski mountaineer fell to his death after slipping down a gully and over a bluff on the Tasman Glacier.

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