Few remains impede identification
JOHN EDENS IN QUEENSTOWN
The chief coroner says the identification of remains recovered from a helicopter crash site in remote Fiordland, is problematic.
Wreckage of a Hughes 500 helicopter, which went missing in 2004 with pilot Campbell Montgomerie, 27, of Waikato, and Hannah Rose Timings, 28, of Gloucestershire, was found near the head of Humboldt Creek in November.
The wreckage was spotted by Glacier Southern Lakes Helicopters pilot Brendan Hiatt during a scenic flight.
Mr Montgomerie and Ms Timings were declared dead at an inquest in 2004 but the case was referred back to the office of the chief coroner, Judge Neil MacLean, when the wreckage was found. Before any decision regarding an inquest is reached, the remains recovered at the site require identification.
Judge MacLean said he planned to update the case with a pathologist. The remains were not formally identified yet but there was a lot of useful circumstantial evidence, including personal effects.
A combination of DNA identification, anthropological expertise and circumstantial evidence should be sufficient to establish identification, he said.
The identification was very problematic because there were few remains at the crash site.
No decision had been made regarding re-opening an inquest in New Zealand but because the pair was declared dead at the 2004 inquest in Te Anau any proceedings required approval by the solicitor-general and consultation with families, Judge MacLean said.
An inquest in England was possible but this primarily depended on whether any remains were repatriated and then an assessment of the case by a British coroner.
According to an alpine cliff rescuer, the scattered debris field suggested a high-speed, explosive impact.
Debris was driven into the rock and spread over a cliff, a steep tiered bluff and a rocky tussock-covered apron along a valley wall in difficult terrain on the extremes of the original search sectors. Searchers recovered a partially intact tail boom, clam shells that formed part of the exterior engine housing, pieces of a gearbox, engine, other metal pieces and melted material.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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