New Zealand police suspect avalanche buried two Canadians weeks ago

The Kepler track is a 60-kilometre loop that runs through mountainous terrain in the Fiordland region of New Zealand's deep south.
The Kepler track is a 60-kilometre loop that runs through mountainous terrain in the Fiordland region of New Zealand's deep south. PHOTO: HANNAH TEOH

WELLINGTON (AFP) - New Zealand police said on Wednesday that a pair of Canadian students whose bodies were recovered from a mountain track were probably buried in an avalanche three weeks ago.

While the bodies have not yet been formally identified, police believe they belong to Canadians Louis-Vincent Lessard and Etienne Lemieux.

The pair, both aged 23, disappeared in early July after setting off to hike the rugged Kepler Track in the South Island.

Police sergeant Ian Martin said a woman had reported encountering two Canadians in a hut on the track on the night of July 7.

"Indications are that the avalanche took place on July 9 and they remained buried until they were recovered (on July 27)," he told AFP.

"It's looking like that's what happened, although everything will be handed over to the coroner (to determine cause of death)."

The bodies were found about 350 metres below the track, which has a high avalanche risk in winter.

New Zealand media reported that the missing men were industrial design students at Montreal University. Their families raised the alarm after realising they had not caught their flights home to Montreal on Friday as planned.

The Kepler track is a 60-kilometre loop that runs through mountainous terrain in the Fiordland region of New Zealand's deep south.

Formal identification is expected to be completed in the next few days.