Graham Stott. Photo supplied.
The families of two men killed in a helicopter crash say
''the boys were caught in the wrong place at the wrong time'',
and have welcomed the official findings.
Flight instructor Graham Stott (31), of Wanaka, and
commercial pilot trainee Marcus Hoogvliet (21), of
Queenstown, died after the Robinson R22 broke up in midair on
the return leg of a flight to Mt Aspiring National Park on
April 27, 2011.
Yesterday, the Transport Accident Investigation Commission
released the findings of commissioners John Marshall QC, and
Helen Cull QC.
Families of the two men said they were pleased the report
proved there was no negligence on behalf of the men.
Stott family spokesman Corey O'Leary told the Otago Daily
Times ''that is quite satisfying for us ... it was a
The report said the helicopter was near its maximum weight
and flying at a relatively high altitude in strong winds and
moderate to extreme turbulence when it broke up in flight.
''The boys were caught in the wrong place at the wrong
time,'' he said.
Mr Hoogvliet's father, Henk, said the report confirmed what
the family already knew.
''They experienced an extreme wind event that overwhelmed the
helicopter and from which they were unable to recover.''
The commission found the break-up was caused by the main
rotor blade striking the tail boom and severing the tail
rotor, meaning the crash was ''inevitable''.
Mr O'Leary said while there had been criticism of the length
of time the final report had taken, the family was grateful
it was ''thorough and accurate''.
He said it had been a difficult period for the Stott family,
but ''we can move forward remembering the good times''.
Henk Hoogvliet said ''as a family, although greatly saddened,
we have no regrets''.
''Marcus ... spent the happiest four months of his life
learning to fly.''
The family had made a donation towards the Search and Rescue
building under construction in Wanaka, in recognition of
their assistance in difficult and dangerous conditions.
The report said the instructor was ''possibly unaware'' of
the dangers of flying an R22 close to its maximum permissible
The helicopter was at 5500ft above sea level and on ''an
unexpected deviation from the intended flight path'' when it
The reason for the change in flight path could not be
determined, the report said.
The wreckage was consistent with the pilot losing control
after the tail rotor was severed by ''successive strikes'' of
the main rotor on the tail boom.
Toxicology analysis of the pilots showed no evidence of
alcohol or drugs. It could not be determined who was flying
the helicopter when it broke up.
The report recommended the director of Civil Aviation review
safety training for pilots of Robinson helicopters and adopt
any measures which would make them safer to operate in New
It also recommended the director encourage the use of
in-flight tracking devices and continue to support
international work to improve crash survivability of the
The report said since the Civil Aviation Authority reduced
safety awareness requirements in 1998, New Zealand had an
average of one R22 in-flight break-up accident every 18
months since 2002.
The CAA accepted the commission's findings, and would now
work to put those recommendations in place.
The New Zealand Helicopter Association said it was not in a
position yesterday to discuss the findings.
- Additional reporting by Tim Brown