Central Otago Mirror - - WANAKA NEWS -

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.

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