Helicopter wreckage ends 8-year mystery

16:00, Nov 22 2012
Helicopter wreckage at the head of Humboldt Creek.

The sister of a Waikato helicopter pilot missing since 2004 is having to grieve all over again after the discovery of the wreckage in Fiordland.

"It's still a shock. It's the shock of it that's bringing up a lot of stuff," Chris Montgomerie said yesterday.

Her brother, Taupiri man Campbell Montgomerie, 27, and his English girlfriend, Hannah Rose Timings, 28, of Gloucestershire, went missing in January 2004.

Campbell Montgomerie
PILOT: Campbell Montgomerie.

Mr Montgomerie and Ms Timings 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 disappeared and were not found despite searches.

The wreckage was spotted in a remote and rugged part of Fiordland near the Humboldt Falls about 4pm on Wednesday by Queenstown-based helicopter pilot Brendan Hiatt.


Hannah Timings
PASSENGER: Hannah Timings.

"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."

The helicopter got within about 20 metres of the wreckage. Those on board with Mr Hiatt could see a section of the tail and a rotor blade, he said.

"It was destroyed. It's been a very, very violent impact."

The remote location was likely the reason why the helicopter, which appeared to have been in the area for several years, had not been found sooner. "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," Mr Hiatt said.

"There's plenty of them [missing aircraft] around though, so you're always looking I guess."

Yesterday police confirmed the wreckage was Mr Montgomerie's Hughes 500 helicopter.

"I guess it's something we always thought might happen - but it's a bolt out of the blue really," Ms Montgomerie, who now lives in Wellington, said.

A tearful Ms Montgomerie said it was something they'd always hoped for.

"But it still feels like we said our goodbyes nine years ago.

So in my mind, we've had that closure, but I guess that's why it's strange how raw it still feels actually."

Her parents, Liz and Ian, flew from Auckland to Queenstown yesterday afternoon to meet searchers who went in to the wreckage.

"We'll wait and see what the outcome of that is really [before we think of heading down]," Ms Montgomerie said.

In 2004, Ms Montgomerie said her brother, a farmer, had achieved in his 27 years what most people did in a lifetime.

He finished secondary school at Kings College and attended Telford Rural Polytechnic. He had travelled England and Scotland in a campervan painted like a friesian cow, attended university in Britain so he could row at the Henley regatta, and had contributed a lot to the communities and people he worked with.

He had been farming at Orini for five years before he disappeared.

"He always wanted to make things better for people."

Civil Aviation Authority spokesman Mike Richards said yesterday two police disaster victim identification officers had been at the site all day yesterday taking still and video photography of the scene.

The images would be passed on to the authority for review to see if there were any obvious indicators of equipment or mechanical failure which might result in a key safety learning.

Waikato Times