FROM THE FRONT PAGE
opened an investigation after a crash in the Mt Aspiring National Park where a Helicopter Line helicopter apparently clipped a stationary helicopter during a snow landing near Tyndall Glacier. The Helicopter Line Squirrel rolled and a pilot was seriously injured.
The airborne chopper was carrying six passengers while the stationary craft was carrying five people.
All the passengers, part of an Asian tour group on a snow landing scenic flight, and the two pilots were airlifted from the glacier.
A commission spokeswoman said, ‘‘the investigation is still in process. We are unlikely to compete that until March next year.’’
The timeframe was considered standard as it usually took between 12 and 18 months for an investigation to be completed, she said.
Company director Mark Quickfall said the two flights being investigated were different as scenic flights were more ‘‘straight forward’’ and heli-skiing flights were at higher altitude and in ‘‘more trying conditions’’.
However, ‘‘one accident is one accident too many’’, Quickfall said.
He said the company was safety conscious and completed more check flights than required.
‘‘Our ambition to be safe is never ceasing . . . We will learn as a business and also the industry will learn (from Saturday’s crash),’’ he said.
In January The Helicopter Line New Zealand was involved in another incident on the Richardson Glacier near Mt Cook where a helicopter tipped over in deep soft snow. No-one was injured in the incident and as it was not regarded as a crash it did not need to be investigated.
The company, which has been in operation for more than 30 years and was New Zealand’s largest heliski company, had completed more than 250,000 heliskiing flights with more than 50,000 customers.
It returned to operations in the Queenstown Lakes on Monday, the same day the commission completed surveying, inspecting and cataloguing the Mount Alta crash wreckage.
About 12 people were involved in the effort on the debris field in steep, snow and ice-covered terrain.
The wreckage has since been removed from the mountain and brought to Wanaka where it will be taken to the commission’s Wellington technical facility for further examination.
Commission air investigator Ian McClelland said the investigation team was also retrieving maintenance records and would be interviewing the pilot and other company personnel.
The last incident involving heli-skiing occurred in 2012.
Civil Aviation Authority senior communications advisor Mike Eng said ‘‘according to our records, since the year 2000 there has been one other accident that took place during a heli-skiing operation.
No-one was harmed during the accident which occurred in July, 2012 at Minaret Peak.’’
The helicopter involved was an AS 350 Squirrel.
Sedon, of Lake Hawea, was the final passenger on Saturday’s flight to be discharged from hospital on Monday.
He suffered two broken lumbar vertebrae, four broken ribs, bruising and contusions, but remained in good spirits and was said to be overwhelmed by all the messages of support he had received.
He declined to speak to media.