Investigators at chopper crash site

Transport Accident Investigation Commission  investigation and field staff examine the main fuselage of the crashed helicopter on Mt Alta yesterday. The tail section (visible in the background) is about 300m away.  The intended drop-off point is out of picture. Photo by Transport Accident Investigation Commission.
Transport Accident Investigation Commission investigation and field staff examine the main fuselage of the crashed helicopter on Mt Alta yesterday. The tail section (visible in the background) is about 300m away. The intended drop-off point is out of picture. Photo by Transport Accident Investigation Commission.

Three Transport Accident Investigation Commission investigators spent five hours yesterday on the side of Mt Alta, near Wanaka, inspecting the Helicopter Line helicopter that crashed on Saturday.

Late yesterday afternoon, investigator-in-charge Ian McClelland said in a press release the team had ''successfully completed surveying, inspecting and cataloguing the wreckage ... in what were ideal conditions.''

About 12 personnel were involved at the scene, where debris was strewn across about a kilometre of steep snow and ice.

The wreckage was due to be flown off the mountain before dark last night and would ultimately be transported to the commission's technical facility in Wellington for further examination.

Saturday's crash resulted in the death of Aucklander Jerome Box (52) and injuries to six other men on board.

The last to leave Dunedin Hospital, Mark Sedon, of Wanaka, returned home yesterday.

A friend on Facebook said Mr Sedon had two broken lumbar vertebrae, four broken ribs and a lot of bruising and contusions.

Neither he nor pilot Dave Matthews, of Queenstown, were available to speak to the media yesterday.

Mr McClelland said the investigation team was retrieving maintenance records and preparing to interview the pilot and other company personnel today.

The Squirrel helicopter involved in the crash was taking five Auckland skiers to a designated drop-off site on the mountain as part of a Harris Mountains Heli-Ski operation.

Wanaka police Sergeant Derek Ealson told the Otago Daily Times yesterday the area where the helicopter crashed was a ''challenging'' place in which to work and each investigator had a LandSar member assigned to them for safety reasons.

''There is the altitude, the snow and the weather conditions, along with the site of the helicopter itself, with sharp metal objects and the possibility of avalanche in that area,'' Sergeant Ealson said.

While the commission investigated the cause of the crash, police were carrying out the coronial inquiry and would be speaking to all the survivors ''in due course''.

Once the scene examination had been completed and the helicopter removed, local iwi would bless the area, Sergeant Ealson said.

mark.price@odt.co.nz