Most of the executive team of New Zealand's Crop and Food Research Institute-the country's most advanced plant GM research organization-was wiped out in the crash of a chartered aircraft returning to Christchurch from Palmerston North Friday night.
The crash killed four of the institute's top six administrators-research manager Desma Hogg; strategy manager Katherine Carman, a science strategist hired from Britain's Ministry of Agriculture; marketing manager Alistair Clough, and human resources manager Margaret Viles.
The others who died were communications manager Howard Bezar, and Business managers Andy Rosanowski and Richard Finch.
A fifth administrator, senior finance manager Richard Barton, survived the crash with serious injuries. Chief executive Paul Tocker was not on the flight that was returning from a business meeting.
"This is a tragedy for the families, the company and us all," Tucker said. "There are friends as well as colleagues."
Five other staff had traveled on a regular commercial flight. No researchers were on the downed aircraft.
"From a scientific perspective, we have retained our core capability," Tocker said. "But these people, as part of the key management business team, were involved in the fundamental thinking and the strategy of developing new science, both scientific capability and obviously interfacing between our science engine and our commercial science. That is the area we will have to rebuild."
Tocker said caretakers would be appointed to take over the roles of the lost managers.
Foundation for Research, Science and Technology Chairman Neil Richardson said New Zealand had lost some of its leading science managers.
The Institute said a planned application to the Environmental Risk Management Authority for a permit to do field trails of onions genetically modified to survive the weed killer Roundup would go ahead when a moratorium on GM crops ends in October.