Helicopter crashes in Fiordland

The occupants of a privately owned helicopter observing a deer-recovery operation in Fiordland got a closer-than-expected encounter with their subject after their machine crashed.

The Robinson R22 helicopter, with a 64-year-old pilot and 55-year-old passenger on board, crashed about 10km northwest of the northern tip of Lake Hauroko near the Burn Hut about 8am yesterday.

Acting control manager Sergeant Fred Shandley, of Invercargill, said only the passenger was injured in the crash. He received minor injuries.

Few details are known about the occupants of the downed aircraft except that they are both males and come from Warkworth, north of Auckland.

The injured passenger was flown out of the bush to a waiting ambulance at the Lake Hauroko carpark and taken for medical treatment.

Mr Shandley said early indications showed the helicopter struck trouble while it was hovering about 15m above the ground, observing a second helicopter that was on the ground carrying out a deer-recovery operation.

The helicopter spiralled out of control and struck the ground, landing on its side, he said.

The reason for the crash had not yet been ascertained, Mr Shandley said.

Constable Malcolm Darlison, of Tuatapere, said the plummeting helicopter fell into the same clearing just metres away from the second aircraft.

While he had not been to the crash site, Mr Darlison had been told that once the helicopter hit the ground the occupants of the other aircraft were on the scene in about 10 seconds.

Pilot Paul Baxter, of Tuatapere, who was believed to be on board the second helicopter, did not want to comment yesterday.

The Civil Aviation Authority has been notified and its spokesman Bill Sommer said that, while it would not conduct a field investigation, inquiries would be made to determine the cause of the crash. That would include a report from the pilot and any other people and agencies involved, he said.

Mr Darlison said the crashed helicopter was to be removed from the site yesterday afternoon or today.

He expected the helicopter would probably be written off because it sustained significant damage from the impact.

The Southland Times