Chopper crash: Rescuers praised by pilot

NICOLA MURPHY, MICHAEL FOX AND MARIKA HILL
Last updated 17:54 24/11/2011
Lyle McMahon

Emergency services and witnesses talk about the helicopter crash at Auckland's Viaduct harbour.

Greg Gribble
SUPPLIED
GREG GRIBBLE: Was involved in a helicopter crash at the Auckland Viaduct.
Helicopter crash
LAWRENCE SMITH/Fairfax Media Zoom
The scene of the crash on Auckland's waterfront.

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LATEST: The pilot who walked away from yesterday's waterfront helicopter crash says it's ''miraculous'' he is alive.

Greg Gribble today looked over the wreckage of his helicopter at the Ardmore hangar with disbelief, telling media he couldn't remember the accident that led to it tumbling to the ground.

The 56-year-old says he blacked out as he was swung out the front door of the helicopter before falling back inside.

''Everything was going perfectly to plan and then it went pear-shaped.

''The first thing I knew the helicopter shook violently, I had about two seconds of that I can recall, the next thing I remember I hear the scream of the turbine behind me and the two guys all over me dragging me out which was awesome. If you look at the footage they were in there pretty quick''

Those guys, says Gribble, are heroes.

''They didn't think for a second [before acting]. It could have been different. It could have burst in to flames. Thank you. What can you say, the guys are heroes. If it had of burst into flames they would be double heroes.''

Gribble was installing the seven-storey-high Telecom Christmas tree in Auckland's Viaduct Basin when the accident happened.

The force of the crash bent the helicopter in half.

''We've had a bad accident, we have walked away from it which is pretty miraculous that nobody including the guy under the helicopter got hurt which is absolutely amazing given what's gone on.''

Gribble's only injuries were a bump to the head and a cut finger.

Despite feeling shaken, Gribble said he would be happy to finish putting up the Christmas tree.

He said a lot of preparation went into what was meant to be a straight-forward job.

"We were doing a fairly routine lifting job at the end of the day. There was more health and safety and paperwork involved in that one than almost any job we had come across."

Gribble said he could not officially comment on what caused the accident while the Civil Aviation Authority investigation is underway, but believes he knows.

He has watched the footage and says it's useful to try and determine what happened.

''It's pretty out there but it was good for us to isolate what was going on. Something has hit the blades we think. For all we know it could have been a malfunction but I don't think so.''

CAA investigators were due to meet Gribble today.

Gribble said he's been overwhelmed by support following the near-death experience.

''The support from obviously family and friends has been amazing but also the people who you have worked for for years but you hardly hear from them, I've literally got hundreds of emails and hundreds of texts wishing me well.''

CAMERMAN RUSHES INTO WRECKAGE

An Auckland cameraman who filmed the crash and then was among the first to help save Gribble says he did not think twice about running toward the wreckage.

"I just ran in," freelance cameraman Murray Job says.

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"I just wanted to make sure, seeing it didn't burst into flame as soon as it hit the ground, I felt I had just to get in there and see if we can get the guy out.

"I didn't even think about it, I ran in as fast as I could thinking that if I could get in and out and get the guy out within 20-30 seconds then he as a great chance of survival if the thing was going to catch on fire."

Job was at the Viaduct with two cameras filming the installation.

His cameras caught the crucial moment when the helicopter's rotor blade struck a cable.

Job says as the helicopter came down onto the Viaduct, he snapped his camera onto its tripod and ran toward the wreck.

He could be seen in his own footage climbing up the left-hand side of the wreckage and reaching across to the empty seat for Gribble.

One of the helicopter ground crew was on the right-hand side helping.

"The pilot was unconscious.

"And I just said to the guy how do you undo the harness? I am tugging on it and the pilot woke up enough to say 'you turn it'."

Job then helped ease the pilot out to the ground crew.

"I was glad when I got up there he was all in one piece."

CHRISTMAS TREE COULD BE DELAYED

The Telecom Christmas tree was scheduled to open on December 2.

A spokesman said the company still intended to put up the tree but said there was a "bit of work to be done" before that happen.

He said Telecom would take its cue from official investigations as to whether the launch date would be postponed due to the accident.

- Auckland Now

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