A rescue helicopter's crash landing has left a big gap to cover in the Rotorua area and choppers from Hamilton, Tauranga and Taupo will pick up the slack until a backup machine arrives.
At 5pm on Saturday the BayTrust Rescue Helicopter landed heavily at Taupo Hospital. It was badly damaged and it is unclear whether the $1.5 million machine is a write-off. The pilot and crewman, who suffered minor injuries, were due to collect a patient for an inter-hospital transfer at the time.
The Civil Aviation Authority is investigating but witnesses reportedly said the helicopter's tail appeared to clip the top of a stand of pine trees as it descended to land at the helipad, before plunging to the ground.
It is one of seven rescue helicopters operating under the Phillips Search and Rescue Trust, including the Waikato Westpac Rescue Helicopter, and the crash-landing is a first, secretary David Wickham said.
"There's a network of rescue helicopters through the Waikato-Bay of Plenty and we have let the communications centre know that one aircraft is unavailable," he said.
"We have got a fully certified backup machine available and we're working through the immediate issue, which is taking care of our people. Then we'll consider the steps we need to take to re-operationalise Rotorua.
"There will be a relatively seamless service but in the meantime that network overlaps."
Wickham said the pilot and crewman were doing well. "We're just enormously relieved that no one was hurt. That to me is the most outstanding thing. All the rest pales into insignificance".
The badly damaged helicopter is insured.
It was moved to a secure location in Taupo yesterday for inspection.
Wickham would not comment on the cause of the crash-landing but said the investigation would begin in earnest on Tuesday.
- Fairfax Media