Wreckage could belong to missing couple
NICOLA BRENNAN-TUPARA, JOHN EDENS AND ALANA DIXON
The mother of a helicopter pilot missing since 2004 is on her way to Queenstown to see firsthand if wreckage of a helicopter found in Fiordland is her son's.
Taupiri man Campbell Montgomerie, 27, and his English girlfriend Hannah Rose Timings, 28, of Gloucestershire, England went missing in January 2004 and today police have confirmed the wreckage found is consistent with their Hughes 500 helicopter.
Mr Montgomerie's mother, Liz, told the Waikato Times that at this stage she didn't know much.
But she was just about to get on a plane to Queenstown to find out more.
She did not want to comment any further at this stage.The pair flew from Queenstown bound for Milford on January 2, 2004 but set down at Howden Hut on the Routeburn track in bad weather.
After taking off from the helipad at the hut, they were never seen again.
A specialist police team including alpine cliff rescue members are on their way to the remote alpine site in Fiordland to examine helicopter wreckage.
Inspector Olaf Jensen, of Invercargill, said the families were advised and were being kept informed.
''The helicopter's wreckage is spread across a large area in rugged terrain. The weather in the area is good and the team is hoping to complete the scene examination today,'' he said.
Police went into the area near Humboldt Creek after a Glacier Southern Lakes Helicopters scenic flight spotted the wreckage about 4pm yesterday.
Glacier Southern Lakes Helicopters pilot Brendan Hiatt said he was on the way back to Queenstown after picking up two American couples who had been on a cruise around Milford Sound, when he spotted something below.
"I just spotted something glinting that just didn't look quite right amongst the snow, so I said 'we'll just take a look'. It's happened before, where you see a glinting rock or something that you go in closer for a look at. We got close and it was pretty evident what it was."
Perched amongst rocks and scrub in the isolated, bushy valley near Humboldt Creek he could see what looked like a Hughes helicopter, he said.
The helicopter piloted by Mr Hiatt got within about 20m of the wreckage. Those on board the flight could see a section of the tail and a rotor blade, he said.The wreckage was obviously in bad shape.
"It was destroyed. It's been a very, very violent impact."
He had come across "fresher aircraft accidents, but nothing that's been hanging around for a long time like that", he said.
"There's plenty of them (missing aircraft) around though, so you're always looking I guess."
The remote location where the wreckage was found yesterday was likely the reason why the helicopter, which appeared to have been in the area for several years, had never before been found.
"The lower part of the valley is pretty bushy so the access in there would be pretty difficult, that's probably why nobody's come across it before," he said.
Police staff from Queenstown yesterday evening flew into the area to confirm the sighting and were able to carry out a limited scene investigation.
Inspector Jensen said this morning members of the Invercargill search and rescue team, along with two from the alpine cliff rescue team in Queenstown, would go into the area to examine the scene further.
"Obviously at this stage we can't confirm the (helicopter's) identity or whether it is the missing helicopter from 2004, but there's obviously a high likelihood it is," he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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