The helicopter pilot hospitalised after a crash while fighting the Tasman bush fire yesterday has been revealed as industry "legend" Bill Reid.
Experienced pilot Reid's helicopter, which was carrying a monsoon bucket, suffered what has been described as a hard landing just before 3pm in the Eves Valley area. He was the only person on board.
Reid was found at the wreckage and taken to Nelson Hospital with "minor to moderate" injuries, according to Acting Tasman district commander Inspector Zane Hooper.
Reid Helicopters, based nearby at Wakefield, just south of Nelson, issued a statement yesterday to confirm the hard landing next to a road within the fire ground.
"The pilot of the flight jettisoned the monsoon bucket and made a may day call in accordance with standard operating procedures," said Bill Reid's son and company chief executive and chief pilot Toby Reid.
"The pilot was the sole occupant and received minor injuries."
The company's focus is now in supporting the pilot, he added, while police and the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) investigate.
Local MP Nick Smith said he was saddened to hear that Reid's chopper had gone down.
"Bill is a legend in the helicopter industry," Smith said in a Facebook post.
Reid had briefed Smith and National Party leader Simon Bridges on Friday on the work pilots have been doing fighting the fire.
"He and fellow pilots have been doing the hard yards protecting people's lives and homes. Kia kaha Bill, all of Nelson wishes you well," Smith said.
Reid's father John Reid was known as "Mr Helicopter" and was a pioneer for the New Zealand helicopter industry.
Bill Reid started Nelson Helicopters in 1983, according to the company website, initially working on live deer recovery before going into local tourism.
Police say they are unable to comment any further on the circumstances around the crash at this stage.
Weather was reportedly fine at the time, with light north to northwesterly wind.
Pilot Steve Askin was killed in 2017 while helping fight the Port Hills wildfires.
Askin's chopper, a AS350 Squirrel, crashed as he was returning to the dipping pond to refill a monsoon bucket.
The Port Hills fires, which broke out following a long hot summer, destroyed nine homes and burnt through 2000 hectares of bush and farmland.
The Tasman fires started nearly two weeks ago after a spark from a tractor ignited tinder-dry grass and scrub on Pigeon Valley Hill, about 30km south of Nelson.
The fire, which has covered more than 2000 hectares, has claimed one cottage and seen up to 3000 residents evacuated. Up to 150 firefighters and dozens of helicopters have been battling the blaze.
While the flames are largely out now, there are still lots of hotspots underground which can flare up quickly.
Forecast high winds have made it too dangerous to allow restricted access for residents in Eves, Redwood and Teapot valleys today. It will be reviewed again tomorrow morning.