Congregation mourns 'amazing man of faith'

By Michael Botur

Jerome Box was killed in a helicopter crash when it hit Mt Alta. Photo / via Facebook
Jerome Box was killed in a helicopter crash when it hit Mt Alta. Photo / via Facebook

The congregation at St Paul's Church on Symonds Street is preparing for "a tough couple of weeks" today as the fatal crash of a churchgoer on a Wanaka skiing holiday was announced.

Read: Heli-ski flight horror

Priest leader Mathew Newton led the church in 20 minutes of prayer and soothing words dedicated to Jerome Box, 52, who died in the helicopter crash on Saturday on Mt Alta.

Mr Newton later held a press gathering where he spoke about the impact of Mr Box's death on the congregation.

"The whole reality is yet to hit [family and friends]," Mr Newton said.

Mr Box was described as "an amazing man of faith."

"We've got a tough two weeks ahead of us. But we face these things squarely, face them together and support one another anyway we can," Mr Newton said.

Owner of Box Construction, Mr Box had been a St Paul's parishioner for five years and produced films for the church.

The partners of those who had been on the trip were invited to the front of the church to lead prayers. Mr Newton later told the Herald there was a "sense of guilt around being a survivor."

Mr Newton also said this was not a church trip - "It was a group of friends, some of who go to this church."

Seven men - five heli-skiers, veteran guide Mark Sedon and the pilot Dave Matthews - were on board The Helicopter Line-operated Squirrel AS350 B2.

Matthews sustained minor injuries.

Director of Skyline Enterprises, which owns The Helicopter Line, Mark Quickfall said the five men were on a skiing holiday and staying in Queenstown. They were part of a larger group, some of whom went to Treble Cone yesterday instead.

"We're thinking of the poor fellow's wife tonight and his family. It's terribly devastating."

Quickfall understood the families of the skiers were supporting one another.

Senior Sergeant Gavin Briggs, of Dunedin, said all six survivors were injured - four seriously - and were flown off the mountain.

Briggs said four were later flown to Dunedin Hospital in serious but stable conditions.

Two were treated in Wanaka for minor injuries.

Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) spokesman Peter Northcote said investigators would travel to the crash site today.

Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) spokesman Mike Richards said the authority may be asked to help because of the scale and location of the site.

"I understand they clipped the mountain and the wreckage is spread 1000m down the side of the mountain. [The TAIC] may need more manpower ... it will be a very complex jigsaw puzzle for the investigators."

Otago Regional Rescue Helicopter chief pilot Graeme Gale said conditions were "calm and clear".

- with additional reporting from The Herald on Sunday

- APNZ

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