Inquiries still in progress

An investigation into a high-profile helicopter crash is still "some way off" being wrapped up, more than two years after the incident.

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) yesterday confirmed it is still investigating the April 2019 incident in which a BK-117 helicopter plunged into the Southern Ocean with three crew members on board.

The helicopter was on its way to help with a medical evacuation of a person from a ship near the Auckland Islands, 450km south of New Zealand, when it crashed with pilot Andrew Hefford, winchman Lester Stevens and paramedic John Lambeth on board.

All three survived and swam to Enderby Island, from where they were rescued the following day.

The crash is one of six open cases in the South still being looked into by the TAIC.

Yesterday, TAIC senior communications adviser Simon Pleasants said a final report into the Auckland Islands incident was still some way off because inquiry work was still in progress.

The commission’s investigators were preparing a draft report.

When it was ready, the commission would send it out for consultation with the interested parties.

"The consultation and submission process may turn up new information that may prompt changes before we draft and publish a final report."

TAIC investigates and inquires into the circumstances and causes of accidents, with a view to avoiding similar occurrences in the future.

"The commission is thorough and takes as long as is necessary to establish not just the facts about what happened, but also the broader circumstances — the systemic issues, human factors and mechanisms that led to the accident.

"As is usual for any inquiry, we have looked at what the crew were doing on this journey, along with the operating company’s safety system and processes for this sort of journey."

The wreckage had been recovered was under examination at the TAIC technical facility in Wellington.

"As normal, we’re looking at the helicopter’s history, performance, maintenance, and design of the helicopter type.

"Also who was involved, their relevant professional and personal backgrounds, what they knew, thought, experienced, and did. And of course, we consider the environment, including the weather at the time."

Southern Lakes Helicopters Ltd chief executive Sir Richard Hayes declined to comment yesterday.


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