Pilot still serious after chopper crash

A chopper crash in a remote part of the South Island's West Coast has seriously injured the young pilot and hit the helicopter community hard.

The crash left the 24-year-old pilot trapped in the cockpit, near the Poerua Glacier in Westland National Park about 10.30am yesterday.

He was today in a serious condition in Christchurch Hospital, where he was airlifted.

Two hunters the helicopter picked up from the glacier sustained minor injuries.

The pilot, who left from Franz Joseph, was flying an Alpine Adventurers Hughes 369 and a spokesman for the firm said the crash hit the helicopter community hard.

"It's quite a tight-knit fraternity anyway so whether people work for the same company or not, it's a tight industry down here.

"Everyone knows everyone so it certainly has an effect on everyone and gives everyone a fright," the spokesman said.

Two men from a hunting group had already been flown out when an unknown "mishap" happened during the second trip's take off, he said.

A Rescue Co-ordination Centre NZ spokeswoman said the pilot and hunters were rescued about 12pm yesterday.

The centre responded to two distress beacon activations and notification from the helicopter firm its chopper was overdue and should have returned by 9.30am yesterday, the spokeswoman said.

"As the RCCNZ was arranging for the Garden City Rescue helicopter from Greymouth to fly to the site it received information from the company about the problem at take-off and that three men were injured," she said.

"Another company helicopter had been flown to the glacier to check the situation and was able to pass on information about what had happened on the ground."

Dairy farmer Sean Deane said he helped at the scene of the crash, which happened near his land.

The helicopter crashed on a bank of tussock on a small ridge and looked like it had "fallen off a hill", he said.

Mr Deane helped carry the injured pilot and one of the hunters to the rescue helicopter.

"It's just a small town, a small dairy-farming town...I would expect them to it for me too if I was up there.

"I didn't really do much. I just went up and did what I was told really. I just did what the rescuers told me to do."

The land was popular for tahr hunting during the season, he said.

The Alpine Adventurers spokesman said the Civil Aviation Authority was investigating and no further details had yet been given to the firm.

He believed the authority wasn't immediately able to reach the crash site because of a lack of visibility in the region, but the chopper might have been winched out before the bad weather hit.

He said hunters were often flown in and out of the area because it was difficult to access by foot.

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