Heli roll investigation begins


Air crash investigators will today examine the scene of a helicopter incident near Queenstown.

The Helicopter Line (THL) machine tipped while landing on snow on Mt Sale, 7km from Arrowtown, just before 3pm yesterday.

The scenic flight, in a Squirrel AS350 B2, was carrying three Chinese and two Australian tourists.

One of the machine’s five passengers, a tourist, was left with a cut knee.

Transport Accident Investigation Commission spokesman Peter Northcote said a team of four investigators would visit the site and begin interviews today.

Jeff Staniland, chief executive of THL owner Skyline Enterprises, says the helicopter rolled on its side on landing in soft snow.

The pilot and the other tourists sustained “minor bumps and bruises”, he says.

The pilot of the damaged helicopter contacted the company’s base at Queenstown Airport. Another THL helicopter was dispatched to retrieve the tourists and reached the site within 10 to 15 minutes.

The passengers were flown to the base by 3.30pm, where St John ambulance staff were waiting.

The incident, the cause of which was unknown, was reported to the Civil Aviation Authority and relevant authorities.

The Otago Daily Times understands the Chinese passengers on board were on a tour organised by Auckland-based travel agency Worldway Travel. Company spokesman Ben Woo declined to comment when contacted.

In 2014, a Squirrel helicopter operated by another Skyline subsidiary, Harris Mountains Heliski, crashed while coming into land on Mt Alta, west of Lake Wanaka, killing Auckland man Jerome Box, 52, and injuring seven others.