Edward Rooney

Edward Rooney is the news editor at the Herald on Sunday.

Rigger a 'bloody hero' in Xmas tree chopper crash

A rigging supervisor who narrowly escaped death when a helicopter crashed from directly above him is fighting to overturn official findings that hold him partly responsible.

This week, the Civil Aviation Authority is expected to publish its findings into the causes of a spectacular helicopter crash at the Auckland Viaduct, indicating the crash was partly caused by experienced rigger Scott Anderson.

The helicopter was lifting a 21m tower for the Telecom Christmas tree, when its rotor clipped a cable Anderson held.

Anderson challenged the CAA's initial findings, published a month after the crash, which said he pulled the cable which hit the chopper's blades.

The CAA told the Herald on Sunday the initial findings were likely to be upheld and would be the basis of the final report.

Neither Anderson nor the pilot Greg Gribble, owner of South Auckland-based Helisika Helicopters, will be charged.

"The CAA has decided not to prosecute me," Gribble told the Herald on Sunday. "They are also not prosecuting the other guy (Anderson), which surprises me. I have had no correspondence with the rigger since, nor do I really want to."

Gribble said he had no interest in what the final report said.

"Everyone's out to blame somebody else but, regardless of who's to blame or the outcome of the report, we're pushing on.

"It's been a hard time but as far as I'm concerned it's history."

Cameraman Murray Job, who filmed the accident, said the rigger was not at fault.

"I'm very much on Scott's side. There was a briefing and Scott has told me the briefing was not followed.

"Scott was meant to climb up the tower to unhook the cable. That was the plan and that was why he had the harness on.

"Scott stuck to the plan and attempted to unhook the cable, what else could he do?"

Job said everyone could see what would happen if the cable was left attached.

"Even if he didn't reach up to grab the cable, it was going to hit the rotor anyway.

"I could see what was going on and that's why I started to walk away.

"I was thinking, 'what the hell is this? But these guys must know what they are doing'. Next thing I hear the 'crack' of the rotor striking the cable and I swung around to film what was happening."

He said his other camera on the other side recorded the whole thing. Job said an observer some distance away should have directed the helicopter to remain aloft as the rigger climbed the tower to unhook the cable.

"You've got a tower that's seven storeys high with one end of a cable attached to the top and the other end attached to the chopper. Something bad was going to happen unless the cable was unhooked and that would have been clear to everyone who was there.

"Scott tried to fix it. When the cable struck he ducked for his life, rolled into a run and sprinted straight into the chopper to shut the machine down. He's a bloody hero in my eyes."

Anderson, from the firm Uni-Rig, was not available to comment.

- Herald on Sunday

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