Chopper crashes near Waiouru with five on board

The Lowe Corporation Rescue Helicopter lands at its Hawke's Bay Hospital base with an injured...
The Lowe Corporation Rescue Helicopter lands at its Hawke's Bay Hospital base with an injured victim from this morning's crash. Photo: NZ Herald
A helicopter with five people onboard crashed just before 9am today at Ngamatea Station between Waiouru and the Kaweka Range, on the Napier-Taihape Road.

Three rescue helicopters from Hawke's Bay, Palmerston North and Taupo have picked up five people and taken them to hospital.

The Lowe Corporation Rescue Helicopter has flown a critically injured patient to Hawke's Bay Hospital and two more helicopters are on their way.

Two more patients with minor injuries are being flown to Bridge Pa aerodrome by private contractors but were not transported to hospital as hospital treatment was not needed.

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission has sent three investigators to the crash site. They are currently due to arrive at the site tomorrow morning.

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission has opened an inquiry into a helicopter crash that occurred at about 9am today at a remote location North East of Waiouru.

The Chief Investigator of Accidents, Captain Tim Burfoot, says the accident involved a Hughes MD600N helicopter.

"The helicopter was on a commercial operation with 5 people on board when it crashed," said Capt Burfoot

He said the helicopter has been extensively damaged.

The Commission opens an inquiry when it believes the circumstances of an accident or incident have - or are likely to have - significant implications for transport safety, or when the inquiry may allow the Commission to make findings or recommendations to improve transport safety.

Rescue Coordination Centre NZ coordinated the response.

The helicopter was undertaking a commercial survey operation in the area. At 8.50 am, RCCNZ received an alert from the ELT distress beacon on board, providing a location at Oturua Stream.

RCCNZ Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator Dave Wilson said another helicopter from the same company was initially sent to provide a fast, initial response to determine the situation, with the Greenlea Rescue Helicopter from Taupo arriving on scene soon after to provide medical care.

"Distress beacons can summon life-saving help to people who need it and get them to hospital faster. In this particular case, the alert from the distress beacon was the only notification that the aircraft had crashed."

One person was in a critical condition, two were in a serious condition and two others had suffered less serious injuries.

RCCNZ tasked two additional rescue helicopters with intensive care paramedics; one from the Hawkes Bay Helicopter Rescue Trust and the Palmerston North Rescue Helicopter. All patients have been taken to hospital.

"Our thoughts are with the injured passengers and we wish them a successful recovery," Wilson said.

The circumstances around the crash are still being established and TAIC are investigating.

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