Passengers interviewed after helicopter tips on landing

By Guy Williams at Otago Daily Times

Transport Accident Investigation Commission air investigators Ian McClelland, left, and Steve Walker, join TAIC spokesman Roger Foley at a media briefing into an incident. Photo / Tracey Roxburgh
Transport Accident Investigation Commission air investigators Ian McClelland, left, and Steve Walker, join TAIC spokesman Roger Foley at a media briefing into an incident. Photo / Tracey Roxburgh

Air accident investigators have interviewed the five passengers on board a helicopter that rolled over on landing near Queenstown yesterday afternoon.

The Squirrel AS350 B2, operated by The Helicopter Line (THL), tipped over on Mt Sale, on the Crown Range, during a sightseeing flight about 2.50pm.

Three Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) staff, including two investigators, arrived in the resort this morning.

Investigator Steve Walker said the information provided by the three Chinese and two Australian passengers today had been "really useful".

He and fellow investigator Ian McClelland had yet to interview the pilot, but expected to do so in the next day or so.

They would visit the scene of the accident, about 7km northeast of Arrowtown, tomorrow.

One tourist sustained a cut knee when the helicopter tipped over during the landing.

The scenic flight was carrying three Chinese and two Australian tourists.

Jeff Staniland, chief executive of THL owner Skyline Enterprises, said yesterday the helicopter rolled on its side on landing in soft snow.

The pilot and the other tourists sustained "minor bumps and bruises'', Mr Staniland said.

The pilot of the damaged helicopter contacted the company's base at Queenstown Airport. Another THL helicopter was dispatched to retrieve the tourists and reached the site within 10 to 15 minutes, he said.

The passengers were flown to the base by 3.30pm, where St John ambulance staff were waiting.

The incident, the cause of which was unknown, had been reported to the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand and relevant authorities, he said.

The Otago Daily Times understands the Chinese passengers on board were on a tour organised by Auckland-based travel agency Worldway Travel. Company spokesman Ben Woo declined to comment when contacted.

In 2014, a Squirrel helicopter operated by another Skyline subsidiary, Harris Mountains Heliski, crashed while coming into land on Mt Alta, west of Lake Wanaka, killing Auckland man Jerome Box (52) and injuring seven others.

- Otago Daily Times

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