Helicopter crash victim 'seriously injured'
HEATHER SIMPSON AND ANNA PEARSON
A survivor of a helicopter crash on a rural Marlborough property apologised to one of his rescuers for causing a fuss before being flown to hospital with extensive injuries.
A helicopter carrying two Blenheim men crashed on Bonavaree Farm owned by Doug Avery, in the area of Glenake Rd, near Ward, just before 9am yesterday.
Grant McCallum and Sam Kersten were injured when the White Hughes 300 helicopter McCallum was piloting crashed into a gully.
McCallum is the owner of Cloudy Bay Helicopters and Kersten is a Blenheim man.
A spokesman for St John ambulance said one man suffered leg injuries and the other had back injuries.
They were flown to Wellington Hospital, where McCallum was listed as being in a stable condition this morning. Kersten had surgery last night and remains in a serious condition this morning.
Avery said that Kersten, a hunter who used to work on his son-in-law Locky Taylor's property next door, knew the area well.
The men had been heli-hunting for deer and were joined by two hunters on the ground in a utility vehicle.
''The first I knew that something had gone wrong, I got a ring from [Locky] to tell me an emergency locator beacon had gone off,'' he said.
''When I saw the crash from a distance of about 500 metres, I had little confidence I would be seeing anyone alive. It was a horrific few minutes.''
Avery found Kersten below the wreckage when he got there and McCallum still inside the helicopter. ''[Kersten] had been flung clear. He was in a fair bit of pain.
He kept saying, 'Doug, I am sorry about this'. I said, 'You do not have to be sorry'. The pilot was suffering pretty badly as well,'' he said.
''They are very lucky to be alive, but also very unlucky. They have extensive injuries.''
The men had called ahead to ask for permission to hunt in the area, Avery said.
''They were shooting deer and pigs on a significant natural area that we had fenced off.
It is on the side of a very, very steep hill and access is very difficult.''
Avery said he called emergency services and directed the rescue helicopters to the site of the crash.
The Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter was the first on the scene and was later supported by the Westpec Rescue Helicopter from Wellington.
Because of the difficult terrain, Avery transported police officers, four Ward firefighters and neighbouring farmers with cutting equipment in a 4WD vehicle and trailer to the scene.
Ward chief fire officer Peter Chapman said the chopper was ''totally munted'' with its nose pointed down the valley.''[Kersten] was lying on his back on briars.
The briars were supporting him from going down the hill,'' he said. Firefighters used cutting equipment to get Kersten out of the briar plants.
Paramedics from one of the rescue helicopters then stabilised him.
''He was in quite a bit of pain until he was sedated. The pilot's body was halfway out of the cockpit. He was conscious.''
Both men were winched from the scene by two rescue helicopters from Nelson and Wellington.Their wives had flown to Wellington Hospital to be with them.
The Civil Aviation Authority is investigating.
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