Investigators consider winch failure conflict

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Air accident investigators will consider information uncovered by Mountain Scene about a helicopter winch failure. 

The Civil Aviation Authority is currently mid-way through an investigation into the failure, which occurred during a dramatic operation to rescue an injured hunter. 

In December, Mountain Scene revealed that official reports submitted by the Lakes District Air Rescue Trust (LDART) – the body which organises Queenstown helicopter rescues – conflicted with eyewitness accounts. 

Members of the Queenstown Alpine Cliff Rescue team say the doctor sent to help the hunter was a few metres above the ground when the cable on the winch snapped. 

But the LDART report, which included a statement from the doctor himself, states he was on the ground at the time and the winch mechanism jammed rather than snapped. 

CAA communications boss Emma Peel confirms investigators have been made aware of the claims made by senior rescuer Rupert Gardiner and others, and published in Mountain Scene newspaper on December 15. 

Peel says: “The CAA does not make interim comments on investigations until they are complete.” 

It had deemed the incident “critical” due to the potential injury to the doctor, who was not hurt. 

The 30-year-old hunter, from Christchurch, was rescued on October 23 last year in a 10-hour operation. 

He suffered a badly broken leg and was airlifted to hospital by a Southern Lakes Helicopters chopper from Te Anau.