Erebus man dies in crash

DESERVED RECOGNITION: Ron Chippindale receives the New Zealand Special Service Medal last year for his work on the Mt Erebus investigation.
DESERVED RECOGNITION: Ron Chippindale receives the New Zealand Special Service Medal last year for his work on the Mt Erebus investigation.

Ron Chippindale, who investigated the Mt Erebus air disaster, devoted decades of his life to ensuring the safety of travellers.

Yesterday he was killed while on his customary early morning stroll in Porirua.

Mr Chippindale, 74, was hit by a car in Whitford Brown Ave at 7.25am.

The 18-year-old driver lost control of his early model V8 Ford Falcon, mounting the pavement and hitting Mr Chippindale, said Inspector John Spence, the Kapiti Mana police area commander.

Mr Spence said the driver, who was unhurt, was likely to face serious charges.

In a statement, Mr Chippindale's family said they were devastated at the loss of a "generous and loving" man. "We feel deeply saddened that his life has been cut short by such untimely circumstances.

"It is somewhat ironic that he endeavoured through his work to make the world a safer place, and yet today was taken himself by such a tragic accident."

Mr Chippindale had a long and illustrious career as an air accident investigator, but is best known for his report into the 1979 crash at Mt Erebus, New Zealand's worst air accident. After a six-month inquiry, he found pilot error to be the cause of the crash, which killed all 257 people on board.

A subsequent royal commission, chaired by Justice Peter Mahon, cleared the aircrew of wrongdoing and blamed Air New Zealand instead.

Mr Chippindale was in high demand throughout the world as an accident inspector.

Former colleagues spoke of his high work ethic and eye for detail.

Mike Baker, who worked with Mr Chippindale on investigations for nearly 30 years, said the "human dynamo" just didn't stop from the time he arrived at an accident. "He was totally dedicated.

"Aviation is inherently dangerous, but to be taken like this at this stage of life is terrible."


Ron Chippindale's expertise was recognised internationally and he was often seconded to overseas investigations, including that into the 1983 shooting-down of KAL007 over the Sakhalin Islands in the Pacific Ocean, and the 1986 crash of a Tupolev Tu-134 in South Africa in which the president of Mozambique died.

He was investigator-in-charge of 48 air and rail accidents at TAIC and oversaw about 400.


* Born March 26, 1933, in Kettering, England; moved to New Zealand in 1938, educated Rangiora High School.

* 1951-74 RNZAF pilot, retired with the rank of squadron leader.

* Joined office of Air Accidents Investigation in 1974; became chief inspector of air accidents in 1975 and first chief investigator of accidents for Transport Accident Investigation Commission in 1990.

* Retired in 1998.

* Awarded New Zealand Special Service Medal (Erebus), March 2007.

The Dominion Post