In­ves­ti­ga­tors still gath­er­ing chopper crash ev­i­dence

Central Otago Mirror - - FRONT PAGE - By BY MAR­JORIE COOK

Three sep­a­rate agen­cies are now in­ves­ti­gat­ing a fa­tal he­li­copter ac­ci­dent on Mt Alta, near Wanaka, on Au­gust 16.

Civil Avi­a­tion Au­thor­ity spokesman Mike Richards con­firmed this week the CAA is con­duct­ing a health and safety en­quiry, sep­a­rately to in­ves­ti­ga­tions by the Trans­port Ac­ci­dent In­ves­ti­ga­tion Com­mis­sion (TAIC) and the po­lice, on be­half of the coro­ner.

Auck­land man Jerome Box, 52, died and seven were in­jured when an Aerospa­tiale AS 350 he­li­copter owned by the Queen­stown-based company He­li­copter Line landed heav­ily on snow dur­ing a Har­ris Moun­tains Heli-Ski trip.

Richards de­clined to com­ment on what or who trig­gered the health and safety in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The lead in­ves­ti­ga­tor is the TAIC but a 2003 Prime Min­is­te­rial des­ig­na­tion en­abled the CAA to do health and safety in­ves­ti­ga­tions, sep­a­rately to nor­mal in­ves­ti­ga­tion pro­ce­dures, Richards said.

TAIC in­ves­ti­ga­tor Ian McClel­land said the air­craft wreck­age was in a TAIC fa­cil­ity in Wellington.

An ini­tial in­ves­ti­ga­tion had been com­pleted and some items would be gone over again in more de­tail. What those items would be had yet to be con­firmed but would in­clude the en­gine, McClel­land said.

‘‘We’ve en­listed the help of ... our sis­ter or­gan­i­sa­tion in France be­cause the en­gine and the air­craft are of French ori­gin,’’ McClel­land said.

The TAIC has set it­self a dead­line of Fe­bru­ary.

‘‘If there any ur­gent safety is­sues there, we will re­lease in­for­ma­tion straight away,’’ McClel­land said.

The com­mis­sion would not get in­volved in the CAA’s health and safety in­ves­ti­ga­tion but would ob­vi­ously be in­ter­ested in its re­sults, he said.

He­li­copter Line/Har­ris Moun­tain Heli-Ski spokesman Mark Quickfall of Queen­stown said yes­ter­day his com­pa­nies were co-op­er­at­ing with all in­ves­ti­gat­ing agen­cies and were as ‘‘keen as any­one to stem any sys­temic is­sues from our op­er­a­tions’’.

Quickfall did not know what had trig­gered the health and safety in­ves­ti­ga­tion. He said his

in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the Mt Alta ac­ci­dent was nearly com­plete and he would re­port to the in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

‘‘It is fair to say when op­er­at­ing our type of business, you have to ex­pect scru­tiny. An ac­ci­dent like this you live in fear of, ev­ery day. You work hard to min­imise them, ev­ery day ... You have to stand up to it, be open, hon­est and trans­par­ent,’’ he said

Search­ing the wreck­age: Trans­port Ac­ci­dent In­ves­ti­ga­tion Com­mis­sion in­ves­ti­ga­tors and field support staff in­spect the main fuse­lage of the He­li­copter Line ma­chine on Har­ris Moun­tains He­liSki ser­vice which crashed on Mount Alta, near Wanaka, in Au­gust.

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