Chopper crash: Passenger rescued by employer

By Michael Botur

The scene of the accident. Photo / supplied
The scene of the accident. Photo / supplied

Two men have been taken to hospital with serious back and leg injuries following a helicopter crash on a Marlborough farm this morning.

The wife of the passenger has flown to Wellington Hospital to be at his side.

The pilot, Grant McCallum, was undergoing a CT scan, family member said.

Doug Avery regularly invites hunters to shoot deer on regenerating native bush areas on his Bonaveree farm. Mr Avery was unsure whether the hunters were shooting from a helicopter before this morning's crash.

"I'd been rung a few days before by a guy who used to work for my son-in-law asking permission to shoot deer," Mr Avery said.

The scene of the accident. Photo / supplied

His son-in-law Lachlan Taylor phoned during breakfast today to say an emergency locator beacon had gone off.

Although poor coverage hindered his 111 cellphone reception, Mr Avery found the passenger - an employee on the Avery's farm - about three metres from the helicopter, which had its rotors snagged in manuka.

The crash initially appeared so bad that no one could have survived, he said.

"I was talking to him and he was apologising for causing for all the fuss. He wasn't in a good way. He was getting a lot of morphine. He was telling me how good life was."

Two rescue helicopters which arrived landed one kilometre away from the crash site, Mr Avery said. "I urged them to come further south. Emergency services transferred their cutting equipment up here. They cut one out; the other guy was ten feet further down the hill.

"From a distance, when I saw it I didn't feel it would be survivable. When I got close I saw the cockpit had created a survival space. It won't fly again."

The helicopter came down "over the boundary fence" from Boundary Rider Wines vineyard.

Mr Avery's daughter Alice said the two Blenheim men were hunting when they crashed. Cutting equipment has had to be lifted in by helicopter to free the men, who are conscious. "They can't get rescue services, fire and police to the site," Mrs Avery said.

"The message I'm getting is it's not pretty up there.

"One wife I spoke to just now is waiting to hear what's happening to her husband."

Emergency services were alerted to the crash near Glenake Road at 8.47am. Members of the Avery and Taylor families, who own Boundary Rider Wines, rushed to assist two men suffering leg and back injuries.

Confusion occurred after Mr McCallum activated a rescue beacon and told emergency services he was within the winery.

The helicopter is believed to be a Schweizer 269 two-seater, based in Blenheim.

Maritime NZ's Rescue Coordination Centre (RCCNZ) said Life Flight and Nelson Marlborough Rescue helicopters had been dispatched to investigate.

An RCCNZ spokeswoman said the organisation was impressed that a locator beacon made it easier for the helicopter to be found.

Tom Butler, manager of the nearby Grassmere Lodge, said fog was "heavy and thick" this morning. "You wouldn't be able to see more than fifty metres," Mr Butler said.


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