Wedding helicopter crash: Photographer took images seconds before chopper plunged

The Civil Aviation Authority has asked for the photos taken on board a helicopter seconds before it crashed on Saturday during the wedding of a Christchurch couple.

The Herald has revealed photographer Rachel Jordan was taking photographs just before the Robinson R44 helicopter's engine lost power shortly after take-off.

Her husband Eric Jordan was contacted by the CAA on Thursday and said he would provide the photographs that it had requested to assist with the investigation.

The helicopter crashed at Terrace Downs in Mid Canterbury on Saturday.

There were four people on board - Jordan, newlyweds Fay El Hanafy and Mahdi Zougub, and the pilot.

All four suffered serious injuries and remain in hospital.

Photographer Rachel Jordan was injured in the helicopter crash. Photo: Givealittle
Photographer Rachel Jordan was injured in the helicopter crash. Photo: Givealittle
Jordan spent much of Thursday sleeping after being transferred from Christchurch Hospital's Intensive Care Unit to an orthopaedic trauma ward.

Eric Jordan said his wife had now undergone two surgeries - both a success - on her arms, ankles and feet.

During the second surgery they inserted additional plates and screws in her feet due to the crush injuries to her bones.

"She is still on a continuous infusion of three different types of pain medications to ease the acute sharp pains of the spinal compression she suffered," Eric Jordan told the Herald.

"Teams of multiple nurses have to continually shift her weight to keep her legs from atrophying and from sores developing - as she cannot move her legs, which are immobilised by casts and mostly numb and tingling from heavy neurological damage.

"The nurses test her breathing multiple times every day to get her to breathe deeper - as her lungs were lacerated and compressed by a broken sternum.

"Each breath and cough brings waves of pain through her body - so it's very slow going to bring her shallow breathing back to normal."

Police at the scene of the crash that injured four people including the bride and groom on their...
Police at the scene of the crash that injured four people including the bride and groom on their wedding day. Photo: George Heard
Eric Jordan said his wife was "heavily bruised" all over her body.

"From the impact of the helicopter's structure on her body," he explained.

Jordan's main injury was a burst fracture to her spine.

Her surgeons had explained that the injury was the result of Jordan's spinal column being "heavily compressed from the rapid immediate descent of the helicopter into the ground".

"The bones were pushed up into the spinal canal - dislodging several vertebrae," Eric Jordan said.

"Many of the vertebrae fractured into multiple pieces."

Experts say burst fractures are considered more severe than other spinal injuries, because long-term neurological damage can follow.

That damage can progress for some time before the extent is realised.

Eric Jordan said his family was coping as best they could.

They moved to New Zealand from the US in 2015 and while their family could not be here they had good support from friends and their community - and hospital staff.

"Our son Evan spent (Wednesday) drawing colourful pictures on all of the casts she is wearing on her arm and both legs - to cheer her up a bit," Eric Jordan shared.

"The nurses at Christchurch Hospital are incredibly empathetic with Rachel's situation and regularly test her joint movement, range of motion, blood pressure, breathing, pain management, and food intake.

"We have a family friend by the name of Jenna Young who is also a photographer who has been staying at the hospital regularly every day helping us co-ordinate things for Rachel and help keep Evan's mind on fun activities exploring Christchurch.

"She has been incredibly helpful to us."

He said the family had been receiving messages from clients and also from Evan's schoolmates at Bay of Islands International Academy.

"And people all across New Zealand with an outpouring of support for Rachel's situation - with genuine interest in her wellbeing," he said.

"The Givealittle page that has been set up by Emma Macdonald has been an amazing piece of support for us."

Eric Jordan and members of the newlywed's families were invited to a meeting on Wednesday with Wyndon Aviation, the company which owns the helicopter.

The families were told that initial investigations had confirmed that the aircraft's engine lost power shortly after take-off - causing the terrible crash.

"Although the investigation is still in its early stages, we have established the engine in the helicopter suffered a total power loss shortly after take-off," a spokesman told the Herald after the family meeting.

"Put simply the engine had stopped.

"Statistically this is a very rare occurrence."

The company said their investigation was ongoing.

"It is imperative we find the cause for the engine to have lost power,"said the spokesman.

The CAA is also investigating and said its work could take some time.

Eric Jordan said the explanation given by the helicopter company was"consistent" with what his wife told him - that the engine shut down completely during flight.

"The only thing Wyndon Aviation has not yet been able to determine was what exactly caused the power loss," said Eric Jordan.

"I have personally been contacted by the CAA and asked to provide photos from Rachel's camera, which took several photos out of the helicopter cockpit shortly before the crash occurred.

"I hope to provide these photographs to them for examination just as soon as I can within my busy schedule addressing Rachel's health and other matters around her care."

 

 

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