New Zealand chopper crashes putting up Xmas tree

Last Updated: Wednesday, November 23, 2011 - 16:29

Wellington: A New Zealand helicopter pilot
miraculously escaped injury today when his chopper crashed
spectacularly and broke up while erecting a giant Christmas
tree on the Auckland waterfront.

The helicopter`s main rotor clipped a cable as it was
about to land, sending the aircraft spinning out of control
into a pylon, which sheared off the tail section as nearby
workers ran for cover.

Television footage showed the pilot, clad in a
fluorescent safety vest, being tossed around the cockpit like
a rag doll, appearing to fall out of the chopper`s door before
his harness snapped him back inside.

The aircraft slammed into the ground, with the cockpit
surviving in one piece and the pilot, named in local media as
Greg Gribble, walking away with help from two co-workers, who
clambered on the wreckage to free him.

Gribble, an experienced chopper pilot with thousands of
flying hours, was taken to hospital for precautionary
monitoring and later released.

"He was lucky to walk away from this," Civil Aviation
Authority (CAA) safety inspector Steve Walker told reporters,
adding that it was "extraordinary" no ground staff were hit by
flying wreckage.

Gribble was the only person aboard the Eurocopter AS350
B2 Squirrel helicopter, which had been hired by Telecom Corp.
to erect a 26-metre high fibre optic Christmas tree on the
waterfront.

"Can confirm the helicopter that crashed was putting up
our Xmas tree. We`re really happy to confirm pilot and ground
crew all OK," Telecom said on its official Twitter feed.

The CAA said it expected a preliminary investigation into
the crash to be completed within four weeks.

PTI



First Published: Wednesday, November 23, 2011 - 16:02

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