Private investigation into crash

A decision by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) not to further investigate the 2004 Hughes 500 helicopter crash in Fiordland has been criticised and prompted a private investigation into the accident.

A week after wreckage was found near Humboldt Creek with the bodies of Waikato farmer Campbell Montgomerie (27) and English tourist Hannah Timings (28), a private investigator has suggested the pilot's navigation system hindered the original search eight years ago.

CAA media communications manager Mike Richards confirmed its investigators would not visit the wreckage, which means retired CAA investigator Tom McCready and Westpac search and rescue pilot Darryl Sherwin have decided to begin their own investigation.

Mr Sherwin was outraged the CAA was not looking at the crash site and said the authority was failing to do its job.

"Where is the cut-off as to when you investigate a crash or not. If they found it a day later, eight days or eight months, it would be a different story," Mr Sherwin said.

"It is what the CAA are there for.

"To me, it would highlight the need for better education into low mountain flying."

Miss Timings and Mr Montgomerie went missing in January 2004 when a Hughes 500 369HS helicopter crashed in the Hollyford Valley.

The wreckage was located on Wednesday evening last week near Humboldt Creek, when a pilot on a commercial flight spotted it while returning to Queenstown with passengers.

Mr Sherwin said he and Mr McCready would investigate the crash as they thought it provided a unique opportunity to learn from mistakes.

"We are not out to apportion blame," Mr Sherwin said.

He said the investigation would not only look at the cause of the crash, but the search for the two occupants for the 10 days after they went missing.

"The whole thing is a learning process, and if something happens like this again we are going to be better equipped."

The CAA investigation would not move past a "desk investigation" unless it found signs that needed following up, Mr Richards said.

There had been no failures in that particular type of aircraft since, and the time that had passed had left them little to investigate, he said.

"It's a cold case isn't it ...

frozen wasteland almost," he said of the conditions where the wreckage was found.

However, he welcomed the private investigation, especially if it would help the families of those lost.

Meanwhile, private investigator Gavin Grimmer, who has been working on the case since 2009, believes he has established why the helicopter was not located earlier.

Mr Montgomerie had been using a Garmin 195 GPS while it was more common for pilots to use magnetic north settings.

When Mr Montgomerie was in contact with the Milford Flight Service tower, he had recorded a direction of tracking into a 272 heading.

The difference for searchers would be about 4km, which Mr Grimmer said was significant in the terrain.

"If they realised he was on a true system, there was every chance they would have found him."

It was upsetting the CAA was not investigating further, Mr Grimmer said, but he understood it did not have the funds to investigate every crash.

"For the CAA to say 'there's no lesson to be learnt here', this proves there is," Mr Grimmer said.



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