Car rental company relents on bill after tourists crushed by glacier

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WELLINGTON — A car hire company reversed course Wednesday after angering New Zealand’s prime minister for charging a tourist family for not returning their car after their sons were crushed by glacier ice.

Ashish Miranda, 24, an aerospace engineer and his student brother Akshay, 22, were crushed beneath 100 tonnes of falling ice as they posed for photos at the base of Fox Glacier on the South Island west coast last Thursday.

Ashish’s body was recovered hours after the accident but the danger of more ice falls has prevented the recovery of Akshay, who had the keys to the hire car in his pocket.

Hire car company New Zealand Car Rental Specialists had demanded the brothers’ parents, who were travelling with their sons, pay up to 1,950 dollars (1,085 US) to replace the keys and have the car towed back to the capital Wellington.

But a chorus of criticism from New Zealand and Australia saw the company back down.

Tourism New Zealand said Wednesday evening that New Zealand Car Rental Specialists had decided to cover the costs for the towing and replacing the keys, after initially refusing to waive the charges.

Prime Minister John Key said earlier the company should have shown more compassion to the family, who live in Melbourne.

“Quite frankly they may have a legal point but sometimes businesses should look beyond their legal obligations to recognise that this was a tragic loss of two Australians,” he told reporters.

“To be out there effectively charging their families now for the lost keys is crass at best and probably truly bad business practice.”