Two brothers, two copter tragedies

Last updated 07:20 12/12/2013
David Jones

CHOPPER CRASH: David Stanley Jones, a 48-year-old man from Woodend, has died after crashing a helicopter in North Canterbury this morning.

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A former Southland man killed in a helicopter crash yesterday lost his brother in a similar accident about 30 years ago.

Pilot David Stanley Jones, 48, of North Canterbury, is thought to have died instantly after his Robinson R22 helicopter crashed and burst into flames in remote farmland near Domett, south of Cheviot, shortly before 9.30am yesterday.

The owner-operator of HeliMax had been spraying matagouri at low altitude in a valley on the western side of Mt Percy. He was the sole occupant and crashed near the mountain base.

"It was a high impact crash and the helicopter burst into flames on impact. It is likely the pilot would have been killed instantly," Senior Sergeant Malcolm Johnston said.

The helicopter was "totally destroyed".

David Jones' brother, Chris, died in a helicopter crash in North Canterbury in the early 1980s. Chris Jones was also flying a Robinson R22, which crashed in the Waimakariri River bed, about 10km west of Christchurch airport.

Simon Spencer-Bower, who taught David Jones to fly in Wanaka in 2002, said the brothers were part of "an amazing aviation family".

Their father used to fly fixed-wing planes and helicopters, he said. "[David Jones] was a typical well-rounded farmer boy. Those people are skilled [and] very easy to teach."

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said it could take many months to determine the cause of yesterday's crash. Police said a loader driver alerted emergency services.

David Jones started HeliMax in 2005. He was married and had young and adult children. He used to be a sheep and beef farmer in Southland. His family is expected to release a statement today.

A CAA spokesman said parts from the helicopter may need to be sent to overseas manufacturers for testing. Safety investigators would review flight and maintenance records, examine the wreckage, and conduct interviews with witnesses and emergency support service personnel.

"If any issues are identified that may prevent an accident of this type occurring again, the CAA will take immediate measures."

The CAA earlier issued an Airworthiness Directive to all Robinson R44 helicopter owners to retro-fit a bladder fuel tank based on overseas reports of potentially fatal fire damage even on low-impact crashes.

No incidents of this type have occurred in New Zealand and there was no similar directive issued for the Robinson R22 series, CAA said.

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