Injured pilot drowned after crash
A helicopter pilot who crashed in a remote Canterbury mountain area died from severe injuries that caused him to fall unconscious and drown, a coroner says.
In findings released today, coroner Richard McElrea said Adrian James Mayberry, 59, died from injuries caused in a crash in the Mathias River Valley, near Lake Coleridge, on April 6, 2011.
On the day of the fatal crash, Mayberry had flown his Robinson R22 helicopter, ZK-IXR, to Mistake River at 9am to meet his son-in-law, Neville Sarginson, and another hunter, Donald McLeod, known as Sam.
Mayberry planned to take his son-in-law to the head of the valley, but the pair crashed while attempting to land about 9.38am.
McLeod drove to a nearby homestead to raise the alarm when Mayberry failed to pick him up.
Rescuers found the crashed helicopter in mid-afternoon.
Mayberry had died at the scene and was found buckled into the pilot's seat of the helicopter, with his upper body submerged in the mountain river.
Sarginson was found lying half in the water, with his upper body on a rock beside the helicopter. He had suffered severe injuries and was in and out of consciousness.
An autopsy carried out by forensic pathologist Martin Sage found that Mayberry's death was caused by severe impact injuries to his head and chest.
Sage said the injuries would have caused "immediate unconsciousness" and it appeared from the condition of Mayberry's lungs that he had experienced "terminal aspiration of water whilst unconscious".
A Civil Aviation Authority investigation into the crash found that Mayberry lost control while trying to reposition the helicopter for landing.
He had been unable to regain control when part of the landing gear skid was caught on a cliff ledge near the landing site.
The coroner said flying conditions were "challenging but within the capabilities of the pilot", and the helicopter had been at the limit of its maximum permitted weight.
"Because of the steep drop-off from the landing site, the visual clues of the site did not give the pilot sufficient close-in detail for a precision manoeuvre."
He noted the inquiry had been delayed because of disruption caused by the Canterbury earthquakes.
Mayberry was a well-known businessman in Christchurch and established the Shooters Supplies store in 1982.
At the time of his death, friend and fellow helicopter pilot Dick Deaker said Mayberry learnt to fly planes in 1972 before getting his helicopter pilot's licence in 1986.
Mayberry had logged more than 1000 hours' flying time.
"He understood the danger. He was a safe and cautious pilot who knew his limitations," Deaker said.
Mayberry is survived by his partner, Jane Farish, and five of his six children, Andrew, Dale, Scott, Nicole and Holly. A sixth son, Nick, died earlier.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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