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Prime Minister and Air NZ apologise to families of Erebus air disaster victims, 40 years on from crash

The Prime Minister has apologised to the families of those who lost their lives in the Erebus tragedy, at a private ceremony marking 40 years since the disaster.

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On the 40th anniversary of the fatal Air NZ plane crash in Antarctica the Government has apologised for the first time. Source: 1 NEWS

In 1979 an Air New Zealand flight crashed into the side of Mt Erebus, killing all 257 people on board.

It remains New Zealand's worst peacetime disaster.

At Government House in Auckland today, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the actions of Air New Zealand and past governments in the aftermath of the crash had amplified the pain and grief for families of the victims, and that past wrongs needed to be acknowledged.

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The Air New Zealand sightseeing plane crashed in Antarctica in 1979, killing 257 people. Source: 1 NEWS

"After 40 years… The time has come to apologise for the actions of an airline then in full state ownership," she said.

"This apology is whole-hearted and wide-reaching."

The Chairwoman of Air New Zealand, Dame Therese Walsh, also apologised to the families.

In 2009 Air New Zealand's chief executive at the time, Rob Fyfe, apologised for how the airline acted in the wake of the crash, but not before it.

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Sarah Myles’ grandfather died in the Antarctica crash 40 years ago, and her book Towards The Mountain explores the tragedy. Source: Breakfast

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The Auckland memorial for the victims of New Zealand’s worst aviation disaster, in 1979, is set to be unveiled in 2020. Source: 1 NEWS

Earlier today Governor General Dame Patsy Reddy welcomed families and read a message from the Queen.

"Please convey my deepest sympathies to the families and friends of all those who lost their lives as a result of the Erebus accident," it read.

"I send my prayers and all best wishes to all concerned as you remember and reflect on one of the greatest civil tragedies in New Zealand history."

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Sarah Myles’ grandfather died in the Antarctica crash 40 years ago, and her book Towards The Mountain explores the tragedy. Source: Breakfast

A minute's silence was held at 1.49pm, the time of impact.

At the same time a minute's silence was also held at a memorial service and wreath-laying ceremony at Auckland Airport.