WELLINGTON - New Zealand searchers looking for a pair of missing Canadian students recovered two bodies on Monday from avalanche debris near where they were hiking.
While the bodies have not yet been formally identified, police said the families of Canadians Louis-Vincent Lessard and Etienne Lemieux had been told of the grim find.
Police said Lessard and Lemieux, both 23, had not been heard from since July 7, when they took a bus to Te Anau in the South Island intending to hike the rugged Kepler Track.
"On a nice day it's a walk in the park but when you get bad conditions like these fellows have had then obviously it can be treacherous," police Sergeant Ian Martin told TVNZ.
"It appears it's happened very, very quickly and been unsurvivable." The bodies were found in avalanche debris about 350 metres (1,150 feet) below the track, police said, adding that they had been taken to Te Anau for identification.
Television helicopter footage showed two depressions side-by-side in deep snow where the bodies were recovered.
"There's multiple ways (to identify them)," a police officer told the New Zealand Herald.
"There's finger printing, dental, DNA, visual - so we just need to work out which way is going to be the easiest and quickest way to do an identification and then we'll take that route." New Zealand authorities were liasing with the Canadian embassy and officials in Quebec to ease identification.
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 (37-mile) loop that runs through mountainous terrain in the Fiordland region of New Zealand's deep south.
The Department of Conservation says avalanches are common there in winter and warns that only experienced hikers should attempt the track.