A decision by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) not to
further investigate the 2004 Hughes 500 helicopter crash in
Fiordland has been criticised and prompted a private
investigation into the accident.
A week after wreckage was found near Humboldt Creek with the
bodies of Waikato farmer Campbell Montgomerie (27) and
English tourist Hannah Timings (28), a private investigator
has suggested the pilot's navigation system hindered the
original search eight years ago.
CAA media communications manager Mike Richards confirmed its
investigators would not visit the wreckage, which means
retired CAA investigator Tom McCready and Westpac search and
rescue pilot Darryl Sherwin have decided to begin their own
Mr Sherwin was outraged the CAA was not looking at the crash
site and said the authority was failing to do its job.
"Where is the cut-off as to when you investigate a crash or
not. If they found it a day later, eight days or eight
months, it would be a different story," Mr Sherwin said.
"It is what the CAA are there for.
"To me, it would highlight the need for better education into
low mountain flying."
Miss Timings and Mr Montgomerie went missing in January 2004
when a Hughes 500 369HS helicopter crashed in the Hollyford
The wreckage was located on Wednesday evening last week near
Humboldt Creek, when a pilot on a commercial flight spotted
it while returning to Queenstown with passengers.
Mr Sherwin said he and Mr McCready would investigate the
crash as they thought it provided a unique opportunity to
learn from mistakes.
"We are not out to apportion blame," Mr Sherwin said.
He said the investigation would not only look at the cause of
the crash, but the search for the two occupants for the 10
days after they went missing.
"The whole thing is a learning process, and if something
happens like this again we are going to be better equipped."
The CAA investigation would not move past a "desk
investigation" unless it found signs that needed following
up, Mr Richards said.
There had been no failures in that particular type of
aircraft since, and the time that had passed had left them
little to investigate, he said.
"It's a cold case isn't it ...
frozen wasteland almost," he said of the conditions where the
wreckage was found.
However, he welcomed the private investigation, especially if
it would help the families of those lost.
Meanwhile, private investigator Gavin Grimmer, who has been
working on the case since 2009, believes he has established
why the helicopter was not located earlier.
Mr Montgomerie had been using a Garmin 195 GPS while it was
more common for pilots to use magnetic north settings.
When Mr Montgomerie was in contact with the Milford Flight
Service tower, he had recorded a direction of tracking into a
The difference for searchers would be about 4km, which Mr
Grimmer said was significant in the terrain.
"If they realised he was on a true system, there was every
chance they would have found him."
It was upsetting the CAA was not investigating further, Mr
Grimmer said, but he understood it did not have the funds to
investigate every crash.
"For the CAA to say 'there's no lesson to be learnt here',
this proves there is," Mr Grimmer said.