Representatives of a helicopter company which employed two men who died in a crash on Thursday are due to be interviewed by specialist investigators today.

James Louis Patterson Gardner, 18, and Stephen Anthony Nicholson Combe, 42, were found dead at the wreckage of the Robinson 44 they had been flying in remote bush in the Lochy Valley area, in the Eyre Mountains southwest of Queenstown, 90 minutes after the chopper was reported overdue.

Both men worked for Queenstown helicopter company Over the Top.

Transport Accident Investigation Commission general manager Peter Northcote said a team of investigators from the commission and two from the Civil Aviation Authority supported by a helicopter and its pilot yesterday completed the recovery of the wreckage.


The wreckage is being transported to the Commission's Wellington technical facility for further examination.

The Commission investigators were due to interview representatives of the operator company today.

Meanwhile, the Civil Aviation Authority has grounded all Robinson R44 helicopters fitted with the same model of rotor blade as that involved in the fatal crash.

Civil Aviation director Graeme Harris yesterday issued an Emergency Airworthiness Directive grounding all Robinson R44 series helicopters fitted with a (C016-7) 'Dash 7' Main Rotor Blade (MRB) until further notice as a safety precaution.

The grounding is effective immediately.

Mr Northcote said the Commission supported the CAA's grounding directive.

"The Commission also reinforces CAA's caution against jumping to the conclusion that blade failure was the cause or a factor in this accident in what are still early days of the inquiry."

Around 80 Robinson R44 are directly affected. A total of 184 Robinson R44 aircraft are recorded on the New Zealand Civil Aviation register.