Cloud covered helicopter crash site, court hears

Judge Farnan
Judge Farnan
A deep layer of cloud blanketed the hills around Lindis Pass when a helicopter crashed in the area, a trial in Queenstown has heard.

MetService meteorologist Ross Marsden was giving evidence in the Queenstown District Court yesterday on the second day of the trial of Athol man Murray Sarginson.

Sarginson was piloting the Robinson R22 when it crashed in limited visibility on April 30, 2016. His sole passenger and business partner, Otautau man Liam Edwards (32), was able to walk and talk after the accident, but died at the scene soon afterwards.

The two men, partners in an earthmoving business, were flying to Canterbury's Mount Algidus Station for work.

Mr Marsden said there was a continuous and deep layer of cloud over the higher slopes of the hills in the area, which extended to the crash site from the east.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is prosecuting Sarginson over what it alleges are ''two fundamental failures'': that he overloaded the aircraft and then flew it in poor visibility.

Sarginson, who was seriously injured, is facing four charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act and one charge under the Civil Aviation Act.

He is charged with reckless conduct in respect of duty, and failing to comply with duty that exposes an individual to risk of death or serious injury, either in his capacity as a director or a worker of the business.

He is also charged with operating an aircraft in a manner that exposed a passenger to unnecessary danger.

Whether the crash was a direct cause of Mr Edward's death is relevant only for sentencing, should Judge Bernadette Farnan find Sarginson guilty of the charges.

The issue would be a factor in determining the amount of reparation the defendant would be ordered to pay to the victim's family.

Counsel for the prosecution and defence agreed before the trial Mr Edwards died as a result of a ''high-energy impact'' that caused chest and pelvis injuries.

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