Pilot's death leaves 'a massive hole'

HANK SCHOUTEN
Last updated 05:00 11/03/2013
Mark Didsbury
Supplied
Mark Didsbury

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A pilot killed when his helicopter crashed in rugged bush was a hard worker who was loving his first flying job, his brother says.

Mark Didsbury, 39, of Wairarapa, was flying a Robinson helicopter when it crashed on a ridge above the Oamaru Valley, east of Turangi, after dropping off a hunting party.

The helicopter was reported missing early Saturday afternoon and was found about 7pm.

Rescuers winched down to the crash site were not able to find the body on Saturday before the search was called off.

A police search and rescue team flown back to the scene yesterday found the body 50m from the wreckage.

Mr Didsbury's older brother, Guy, who runs Pirinoa Station in South Wairarapa, said: "He was a very hard worker, a very generous man and he's left a massive hole. This accident has certainly affected a lot of people."

He said Mark had worked as a shearer, rural worker and musterer here and in Australia before taking up training as a helicopter pilot.

He was absolutely loving his first job with Taupo-based Helisika, where he began flying last year.

A twin, Mark was one of four brothers , and had a long-term girlfriend, Louise Nix.

Veteran Taupo-based rescue pilot John Funnell said Mr Didsbury was well regarded.

"He learned to fly in Whakatane and had been flying hunters out of Taupo for about six to nine months. He had about 500 hours flying time."

Mr Funnell flew a fixed-wing aircraft over the scene when the crashed helicopter was found early on Saturday evening.

The area was very steep and rugged, about 1000m above sea level, and the wreck was in heavy native bush at the top of a ridge about 10km from Oamaru Hut.

Mr Funnell said he could not speculate on what caused the crash.

Mr Didsbury was flying a nearly new Robinson R66 which the company had acquired in December.

The helicopter was based at Poronui Station, a luxury fishing lodge east of Turangi, and Mr Didsbury lived in a house on the station.

Two helicopters based at the station fly anglers into the nearby Ngaruroro and Rangitikei river valleys.

"The pilots have an intimate knowledge of the mountain canyons, gullies and streams," the Poronui website says.

Transport Accident Investigation Commission chief investigator Tim Burfoot said two investigators had flown to the scene to establish the cause of the crash.

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- The Dominion Post

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