Investigators still gathering chopper crash evidence
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.