The wreckage of a helicopter which claimed the life of two parents and left three children injured has been removed from the crash site.
North Canterbury pilot Andrew Hamish Davidson, 60, and wife Lin Chen, 39, died when their new helicopter crashed at Kēkerengū - 30km north of Kaikōura - about 12.40pm.
They had flown to the beach and planned to stop for lunch.
Witnesses said the crash happened as they came in to land - that the aircraft suddenly started to spin, then "nosedived".
Two of the couple's children were injured, along with a third child.
The scene of the crash was blessed earlier today as investigators attempt to piece together how a family outing turned to tragedy.
At 4.30pm, crash investigators finished up and a digger was driven onto the beach to start the process of removing the mangled helicopter.
Within the taped off cordon, investigators worked with the removal team to carry aside pieces of machinery that came apart on impact and then secured the rest of the demolished aircraft so they could lift it.
At 4.45pm they'd managed to turn it back upright and investigators - one of them filming every move - were able to examine inside.
The chopper was then taken off the beach and loaded onto the back of a truck.
It will now be taken to a hangar for further and more in depth examination.
The cause of the crash is not expected to be confirmed for some time.
After the crash locals rushed to the beach to pull them from the wreckage, first dragging the chopper out of the incoming tide with a tractor.
All three children remain in hospital in Wellington - one in the ICU and two in a stable condition.
Davidson and Chen were from Kaiapoi, also north of Christchurch city. He had just taken ownership of the Eurocopter EC120B machine in October.
The businessman from Ohoka in North Canterbury had set up the helicopter charter company Glenloch Helicopters Ltd a month earlier.
The wreckage remained on the scene today and Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) investigators arrived late-morning to start piecing together what happened on the fatal outing.
The team scoured the scene, filming and photographing evidence that was strewn from the immediate site of the crash and across part of the beach. They were not able to discuss their work or the process with the Herald.
A police photographer was also at the scene.
Davidson and Chen's bodies were transported by undertakers last night. It is understood post-mortem examinations will be carried out and information gleaned from those will form part of the final crash report.
There was a steady stream of people wandering down to the site to watch on, take photos and discuss the tragedy.
The Store, Kēkerengū, is open for business after closing early yesterday. Many of the staff there ran onto the stony beach to help seconds after the helicopter crashed.
They were holding up "okay" today but were not speaking to the media about the crash. "The wellbeing of the staff is more important than anything else," said one woman.
This afternoon staff joined representatives of Ngai Tahu on the beach at a blessing.
They walked the beach, stopping at various points to speak, pray and remember.
They did a special cleansing of the wreckage, passing blessed water to an investigator for him to go to the helicopter and perform that part of the ceremony.
Rescuers were then given a piece of fern, a symbolic acknowledgement of their efforts.
"We are grateful there are survivors," the kaumatua said. "And that's down to the first responders.
"This greenery symbolises the support you've given this tragedy.
"We must remember the survivors - we hold in our hearts each of these three little sprouts, the little wee children who are still battling."
The group then moved to the grass where the bodies of Davidson and Chen were carried to wait for the hearses to transport them, sheltered from the wind and away from the mangled metal.
They lay for a time beside the tractor that hauled their machine from the surf, the doors that were ripped off it to get to their children a poignant reminder of the frantic work of the first responders.
In an update on Wednesday evening, TAIC confirmed investigators had spent the day at the scene inspecting the wreckage, mapping the site, and talking with witnesses.
Chief investigator of accidents Harald Hendel said the wreckage of the helicopter had been taken to TAIC's technical facility in Wellington.
"We will examine the helicopter's components, seek any recorded data from the helicopter's electronics, and obtain maintenance and other records from the operator.
"I would like to thank local people and emergency services, along with all those who are responding to TAIC's call for witnesses to come forward.
"Through all of this, we will be careful to work sensitively around the family arrangements for those who lost their lives in this tragic accident. This is a difficult time for all."