Months for air crash analysis

Investigators say it could take months before the cause of Sunday's triple fatality over Paraparaumu is known.

Police yesterday released the names of the three people killed when a helicopter and small plane collided over the Kapiti Coast township, 52km northeast of Wellington.

They were David Mark Fielding (30), a rescue helicopter pilot, of Palmerston North; James David Taylor (19), of Waikanae, near Paraparaumu; and Bevan Andrew Hookway (17), of Raumati South, near Paraparaumu, who was piloting a Cessna 152 light plane.

Mr Taylor, originally from the Nelson Lakes area, was the student pilot of the helicopter, while Mr Fielding, base manager of Palmerston North's Square Trust rescue helicopter, was testing him.

The two craft hit at 11.15am, with some witnesses saying the plane's left wing clipped the helicopter's tail.

The collision was at ‘‘significant altitude'' and wreckage was spread over a wide area, Transport Accident Investigation Commission investigator Ian McClelland said.

The helicopter, an R22, fell through the roof of Paraparaumu's Placemakers store's enclosed timber yard, just missing staff and customers, while the plane fuselage landed about 250m away in Dennis Taylor Ct, with its engine crashing through one of the houses in the cul-desac.

Mr Fielding and Mr Taylor were killed in the crash, while Bevan was critically injured and died later in Wellington Hospital.

Bevan was a senior pupil at Kapiti College and was flying a Kapiti Aero Club Cessna. Police said he was undertaking correspondence studies in aviation through the college.

Mr McClelland said it was too early to say what caused the crash. The TAIC and police were gathering information and supporting the victims' families.

The investigation could take as long as eight months, he said. ‘‘With the aircraft having some fallen some distance, there was a lot of disintegration . . . and so reviewing the wreckage and impact marks will take some time.

‘‘We have no survivors from the aircraft - we do have eyewitnesses which is good, but what the aircraft were doing and intending will take some time to work out,'' he told reporters.

The emphasis at present was on gathering information and from that the analysis of what caused the crash would develop.

The job of investigators would include scene examination, interviewing witnesses and checking with the flight operators on the pilots' records and backgrounds.

Radar tapes, held by Airways Corporation in Christchurch, would be examined.

‘‘We will see whether that has picked up any of the aircraft and that will gave us a radar plot,'' Mr McClelland told NZPA.

The TAIC would also investigate operation of the air space around Paraparaumu, while the Civil Aviation Authority said it would look at air space management. The airport does not have air traffic control and pilots heading near or leaving the airport have to radio their movements.

The Paraparaumu Airport Coalition, set up to oppose the planned development of an industrial estate surrounding the airport, has criticised the fact that such a busy airport does not have an air traffic controller and said Sunday's crash was ‘‘an accident waiting to happen''.

Kapiti Mana area Police Commander Inspector John Spence said specialists, including the police disaster victim identification team, worked until nearly 3am yesterday extracting the bodies of the two men from the helicopter wreckage.

The fuselage wreckage and engine were removed from Dennis Taylor Ct yesterday afternoon.

The plane's nose wheel, which landed in a garden in neighbouring Robert Grove, and its battery, which went through a house's roof, were also taken away. ‘‘Both houses have now been cleared and occupants are able to return to their houses,'' Mr Spence said.

Police hope to have the wreckage of the helicopter removed from the Placemakers site by this morning. Part of the store will reopen today.

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