He­li­copter pulled from wa­ter

Kapi-Mana News - - FRONT PAGE - VIR­GINIA FAL­LON

A sore jaw is a small price to pay to walk away from a chop­per crash.

As Rick Lu­cas watched his he­li­copter be­ing winched out of Pau­ata­hanui In­let, he said he was stunned at the dam­age to the ma­chine.

‘‘It’s so much worse than I thought. I can’t be­lieve I sur­vived.’’

Af­ter two days in the wa­ter, the he­li­copter that smashed into shal­low sea in Porirua was pulled out on Thurs­day af­ter­noon.

Lu­cas couldn’t be­lieve it hadn’t be­come his cof­fin. ‘‘If you told me some­one could walk away from that, I wouldn’t be­lieve you.’’

He climbed out of the air­craft just min­utes af­ter the crash, with a ten­der jaw and a cut mouth his only in­juries.

‘‘Yes, I did buy a Lotto ticket, but I haven’t checked it yet.’’

He had been fly­ing on Tues­day for Heli­force, car­ry­ing power poles, when he felt an in­tense vi­bra­tion be­fore the he­li­copter be­gan to ro­tate.

‘‘I just car­ried out what I con­sid­ered to be the nor­mal emer­gency pro­ce­dures – and got away with it.’’

On Thurs­day, the sal­vage op­er­a­tion be­gan with the ma­chine, still on its side, be­ing inched to­wards shore on airbags, towed by a boat.

A crowd of about 200 watched as sal­vage crews then used a crane and dig­ger to drag the ma­chine across the car park by Pare­mata bridge.

It would then be taken away for fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

Lu­cas said watch­ing it come float­ing into shore was al­most worse than the crash that took it into the wa­ter.

‘‘Peo­ple who don’t fly don’t get it, but we get close to our ma­chines.

‘‘I’ve left a bit of my soul in there.’’

The ac­ci­dent had been hard on his fam­ily, par­tic­u­larly 13-yearold son Bryn who ac­com­pa­nied him to watch the sal­vage, he said.

Bryn said his Dad was a good pi­lot and al­though he was ‘‘ pretty up­set to hear he had crashed, I wasn’t too scared.

‘‘I al­ways knew Dad would make it out OK.’’

Lu­cas said he had been med­i­cally cleared to fly again, and would be back in the air soon.

Putting his arm around his vis­i­bly up­set son, he pulled him in close and gave him a squeeze.

‘‘I know this one wants to be­come a pi­lot, but I’d pre­fer he be­came a brain sur­geon or some­thing like that.’’

CAMERON BURNELL/FAIR­FAX NZ

Pi­lot Rick Lu­cas’ he­li­copter has been re­cov­ered af­ter crash­ing into the Pau­ata­hanui In­let.

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