Herald on Sunday
Wedding day crash horror
Two newlyweds were last night in hospital after their wedding day turned to horror.
The bride and groom were on a helicopter with their photographer when it crashed at luxury wedding resort Terrace Downs in Canterbury.
A holidaying hospital surgeon and four stunned golfers were among those first on the scene as about 100 traumatised guests were comforted by staff.
As family kept a vigil last night, investigations were launched into how a dream day turned to such tragedy.
Aholidaying hospital surgeon and four stunned golfers were among those first on the scene after a helicopter carrying a newlywed couple, their wedding photographer and a pilot crashed at a Canterbury high country resort yesterday afternoon.
The wedding day horror unfolded on a fairway of the golf course at Terrace Downs Resort in Windwhistle, 80km west of Christchurch, when the Robinson 44 came down while flying the newlyweds to a picturesque mountain spot for postnuptial photos.
All four on board were hurt. Three were flown by rescue helicopter to Christchurch Hospital with serious injuries after the 3.05pm crash. The fourth person was taken by St John Ambulance to the same hospital with moderate injuries.
Four people playing golf nearby were first on the scene after the helicopter came down, said Ronnie Ronalde, director of operations for CPG Hotels, which owns the resort.
“They heard a thud and ran to the fairway.”
Ronalde jumped into a golf cart with other staff to go and help, arriving within minutes to discover the occupants of the Robinson 44 “conscious and talking” but in pain.
“Everything happened so quick. We were trying to look after the people until the ambulance came, comforting them, putting blankets on them. One [staff member] was in the helicopter, consoling [the injured].”
A surgeon staying at the resort also came to help, Ronalde said.
“He took charge.”
The helicopter crashed upright near a sand trap, but its tail sheared off and came to rest several metres away tangled around a flag stick.
The newlyweds were sitting together in the back of the helicopter, behind the photographer and pilot, but Ronalde didn't know who on board was among the seriously injured.
“They'd just taken off and weren't that high [off the ground].”
The mountain photo excursion was part of the big day, with the reception for around 100 guests to follow, Ronalde said.
Shocked wedding guests waiting back at the resort, including the newlyweds' parents, had to be comforted by staff, Ronalde said.
Guests were traumatised and confused, he said.
“It's a big day and all of a sudden it stops. It's devastating for the family, and the staff who were there, all of us. It's quite a traumatic day.
“[So] we were trying to console everyone and make them as comfortable as we can.”
Some guests, unaware of what had happened, arrived at the venue only to be told by staff of the tragedy.
The helicopter is understood to be operated by a Christchurch-based company, but no one from the company could be contacted late last night.
The Civil Aviation Authority told Newstalk ZB they were working with the Transport Accident Investigation Commission to determine which agency would lead the investigation into this crash.
"Since we were notified, our investigation and response team has been in close contact with police and first responders as they have attended the accident scene.
“The agency leading the investigation will determine what level of investigation will be launched.”
It's a big day and all of a sudden it stops. It's devastating for the family, and the staff who were there. Operations manager Ronnie Ronalde