Anna Leask is senior police reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Pilot and his man on ground clash over copter crash report

Helicopter pilot Greg Gribble. Photo /  Brett Phibbs
Helicopter pilot Greg Gribble. Photo / Brett Phibbs

A report into the Auckland Viaduct helicopter crash has put the pilot and the man at the centre of the accident at loggerheads.

A preliminary Civil Aviation Authority report has found the November 23 crash happened when rigging supervisor Scott Anderson pulled on a cable which then hit the chopper's rotor blades.

Pilot Greg Gribble told the Herald the findings were no surprise, but did not answer the question of why Mr Anderson, a man he trusted and had worked with previously, had pulled on the cable.

"At the end of the day, all they have really done is summarised what caused the accident ... we all knew somebody pulled the cable and that's what caused the problem, but we don't know why he pulled it."

Mr Gribble said Mr Anderson "won't talk to anyone", but Mr Anderson criticised the CAA, which he said did not interview him before issuing the preliminary report.

"I am so amazed that they can put a preliminary report out without speaking to me," he said.

"There are some glaring omissions. There is no question as to what brought the helicopter down - it was the blue rope. But the reason the helicopter was there where it was and the thinking behind that was a long way from what the report says. There are two sides to the story."

Mr Gribble's helicopter was being used to raise a 25m tower for the Telecom Christmas tree.

The CAA report says the chopper lifted the tower then hovered at about 5m so the line could be removed from its hook by the rigging supervisor on the ground.

"When the rigging supervisor jumped up to grab the line, it instantly tightened and touched the helicopter's main rotor blades. The force of the impact caused major structural damage and the aircraft hit the ground."

Mr Anderson's company, Uni-Rig, had the contract for the tower work and had hired Mr Gribble to help.

Mr Gribble said he had worked with Mr Anderson before.

"I trusted the guy completely ... well, I did."

Mr Gribble said there were plans and backup plans on how the cable should be released, but pulling on the cable at that point and time was "not even remotely" in either plan.

"That was the last thing I thought would happen especially when we had an extremely detailed plan on how we were going to approach it.

"What he did was not even remotely part of the plan."

Mr Anderson struck back last night, saying he and a spotter from Mr Gribble's company spent more than an hour discussing the plan before the helicopter went up. He said Mr Gribble deviated from that plan.

He said that three days after the crash, he wrote down the chain of events from start to finish and emailed it to the CAA with his contact details.

He sent the same information to Mr Gribble by email, and said he never heard back.

"I gave them all the information while it was still fresh. I want answers as much as anybody. I'm pretty pissed off that it's come out like this.

"It's not at all a fair representation of what happened. It's unprofessional of the CAA and I can't believe that's how they operate.

"I'm as confused as anybody else and I can't believe how this situation has developed. Some of the things he's said I don't agree with and I'm not very pleased with. At the end of the day, it was an accident."

Mr Gribble said he had received an email from Mr Anderson but it didn't give an apology or explain what had happened.

"At the time I wanted to talk to him but now I've moved on, I just don't really care. I can't be worried about all that part of it now, we really just have to get our own house back into order."

The full investigation into the crash is expected to take up to a year.

Mr Gribble is back flying again but still has bruises on his legs from the crash.

- NZ Herald

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