A helicopter pilot from a Queenstown company was in hospital last night with serious head injuries after the aircraft he was landing clipped another helicopter and crashed on to its side.
Six passengers in the descending Squirrel helicopter and five occupants of the stationary helicopter escaped with minor injuries from the incident at Tyndall Glacier at Mt Aspiring National Park.
Both helicopters and pilots were from Queenstown-based firm The Helicopter Line.
Four helicopters were used to retrieve the injured pilot and 11 passengers after the incident, which happened about 3pm near the head of the Shotover River.
A Helicopter Line company director, Mark Quickfall, said last night the passengers did not have serious injuries.
He was not ”exactly certain about what has taken place” but it appeared one helicopter ”has had a heavy landing and ended up on its side” after the pilot tried to land beside another as part of a scenic snow landing.
He said the Squirrel helicopter involved in ”the incident” was the one which had ”sustained the damage” and the pilot had been taken to hospital.
”His [six] passengers have also been taken to hospital to be checked out and it doesn’t appear that any of them have any serious injuries. I think [it’s] more abrasions … which is good news.”
A statement from the Rescue Co-ordination Centre said a ”mayday” call was made about 3.20pm and the centre received an alert from the helicopter’s emergency locator transmitter.
The 11 passengers were flown back to Queenstown shortly after 5pm with various minor injuries while the injured pilot arrived at Lakes District Hospital, Queenstown, about 5.15pm on another helicopter with paramedics.
St John Central Lakes territory manager Kelvin Perriman said the pilot was flown to Dunedin Hospital around 7.45pm. He confirmed the passengers had been treated for minor injuries at Lakes District Hospital.
Mr Quickfall, who is also chairman of Destination Queenstown’s board, said the company ran daily scenic flights and it was not unusual for two helicopters to be on the same site.
The Civil Aviation Authority and Transport Accident Investigation Commission have been notified and Mr Quickfall said ”obviously [we will] talk to CAA and the authorities and we will take it from there”.
The company’s website says The Helicopter Line was formed in 1986 and is the largest scenic flight provider in New Zealand. – Otago Daily Times