Rider's tumble costly for pilot

A Queenstown helicopter pilot must pay $6000 emotional harm reparation for his role in causing a woman to be thrown from her horse.

The woman sustained a broken pelvis and injuries that could spell early arthritis and childbirth difficulties after the pilot landed at Cardrona without noticing her - startling her horse, which threw her.

Paul James Horrell (32), owner of Horrell Contracting, was convicted in the Queenstown District Court yesterday of operating an aircraft in a careless manner after the victim - who was given name suppression - read a brief victim impact statement.

She described breaking her pelvis, being left with a twisted right side and being housebound for nearly two months, with a total recovery time of nearly two years and a prognosis of possible early-onset arthritis and an increased risk of jeopardy in childbirth.

Judge Kevin Phillips said the victim "suffered grievously and she's had two years of hell".

Horrell had been helping with the recovery of the engine of Haast helicopter pilot Morgan Saxton's aircraft. Mr Saxton died when he crashed the helicopter into Lake Wanaka in November 2008.

Horrell was flying with his girlfriend and a foreign rescue and recovery expert in the Hughes 369E on June 1, 2009.

Although his carelessness was "moderate", Judge Phillips said Horrell's victim was "there to be seen" as he prepared to land.

The woman, highly experienced with horses, was in clear conditions near the Cardrona Hotel and Judge Phillips said Horrell - an experienced pilot with 180 hours' flying time - had failed to undertake basic reconnaissance.

"Helicopter recce [reconnaissance] techniques require a person to check all is clear of people and property."

Judge Phillips said he had taken into consideration the victim's unfamiliarity with the new horse and that the horse was new to trekking, but any defence argument based on these factors was an "eggshell" defence - "one has to take the victim as one finds them", he said.

The victim dismounted after she "heard the helicopter directly above her - the horse then reacted and cowered down".

Horrell was familiar with the route. If he had done "simple" reconnaissance from an altitude of 300m, the victim might have had a chance to see him and "this tragedy might not have occurred".

Judge Phillips noted as mitigating factors Horrell's good character, genuine remorse and prior offer of $5000 in emotional harm reparation.

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