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'Elation and sadness' for family of Erebus pilot who's finally received apology for unwarranted blame

The Prime Minister and Air New Zealand both formally apologised yesterday to the families of those killed in the Mount Erebus disaster.

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His daughter, Kathryn Carter, shared with TVNZ1’s Breakfast what the apology means now. Source: Breakfast

For the family members of captain Jim Collins, the pilot who was firstly blamed for the 1979 tragedy in which 257 people died, the apology is final vindication.

His daughter, Kathryn Carter, told TVNZ1’s Breakfast the apologies were unexpected, but historic. She was with her family at the private event held at Wellington's Government House, where the apologies were heard.

“It was incredible to have an apology on two levels - the Government and the airline in one place. It was quite overwhelming,” says Ms Carter.

“It felt like waves of emotion - first of all surprise. We were really surprised."

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

She said her and her family wondered if they were hearing what they were hearing to start with.

“Then you start to remember the past and you have this sort of wave of present, past, present, past. A mixture of elation and sadness, it’s a very strange mix," she said.

“It’s obviously vindication for us, for Dad."

Ms Carter said while pilot error was initially blamed for the crash, they always knew their dad wasn’t at fault.

“The thing was Dad was a good man he was a very competent aviator, he loved flying. Because he was a good person, we always knew ultimately that something incredibly awful must have happened on that day for a crash to happen. It didn’t ever make sense to us entirely,” she said.

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Stuart Leighton and Brett Jones were in Antarctica for the 40th anniversary of the tragedy. Source: 1 NEWS

“The problem was we didn’t know what had happened to him. The understanding of the accident came out over time. We weren’t told what happened straight away because nobody knew.

“Then the further we got into it, more information came through which vindicated Dad.”

While the stress of it all took its toll on the family, she said they ignored the people that were behaving badly and focused on the good.

“There were good people, too. I think there’s a few people up at the pearly gates bar at the moment having a few drinks, numbered amongst them Paul Holmes,” she said.

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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

“He really strove to have this outcome that we had yesterday and I feel really regretful that he’s not here to enjoy it."

Among those good people, she thanked Gordon Vette, Justice Mahon and the police officers for the work they all did.

“If you’re a good person, things come right eventually,” she said.

“Along with all the people that helped us, I’m forgetting to talk about my mother. My mother has been the rock that has kept us together. I really commend my mother because without her we wouldn’t be in this position.”