Fox Glacier crash: Lawyer wants all evidence heard

By Tui Bromley

The Fletcher ZK-EUF that was lost at Fox Glacier. Photo / File
The Fletcher ZK-EUF that was lost at Fox Glacier. Photo / File

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has gone on the defensive at an inquest into the Fox Glacier air disaster.

CAA lawyer Duncan Ferrier yesterday tried unsuccessfully to pressure the inquest into hearing all its evidence in public, prompting an exchange with Coroner Richard McElrea.

CAA has been criticised by some of the families of the nine victims of the September 4, 2010 crash in which a Skydive NZ plane crashed and exploded in a fireball moments after taking off from Fox Glacier.

Mr McElrea said at the outset of the inquest in Greymouth on Monday that it would be several months before his finding would be released.

But he had hoped to hear all the evidence this week and directed witnesses to read only specific segments of their briefs.

However, Mr Ferrier said yesterday the CAA was "adamant" that it wanted all of its evidence read to the inquest.

After a brief discussion with the coroner, he accepted that it was the coroner's right to run the inquest but wanted it on record that CAA would not be happy with that stance.

The first of the CAA managers to give evidence, Joseph Daly, shifted the blame on to the pilot or mechanical failure, instead of the weight and centre of balance issues found by the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) as causes of the crash.

Christopher Ford, another CAA manager, said that under the Health and Safety Act the pilot was obliged to commit no act or omission that would endanger himself or others, and that would include obeying the flight manual and ensuring that the aircraft was under or equal to its maximum weight.

Mr Ford said he could not comment, when asked on behalf of the families of the four foreign tourists who died why, as was the case in England, Australia and Germany, the operator was not obliged to insure against personal liability for negligence.

But he noted that the health and safety regulations applied to Skydive NZ's parachuting activities but not the carriage of the skydivers from the airport to the drop point.

Four overseas tourists, Patrick Byrne, 26, from Ireland; Glenn Bourke, 18, from Australia; Annita Kirsten, 23, from Germany; and Brad Coker, 24, from England, four Skydive NZ dive masters Adam Bennett, 47; Michael Suter, 32; Christopher McDonald, 62; and Rod Miller, 55, and their pilot Chaminda Senadhira died in the crash.

The inquest is expected to finish today.

-Greymouth Star

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