11 May 2017

Port Hills chopper crash caused by bucket cables - report

11:26 am on 11 May 2017

A helicopter crash that killed a pilot fighting the Port Hills fire may have been caused by monsoon bucket cables, an investigation has found.

Steve Askin

Steve Askin died fighting the Port Hills fire. Photo: www.way2go.co.nz

Steve Askin died in February, two days into the Christchurch fire, when the helicopter he was flying crashed near the broadcast tower Sugarloaf.

Two separate fires several kilometres apart started on 14 February. Two days later they combined into one large fire. The fire wasn't completely put out until April, by which time 2000ha of forestry and 11 homes were destroyed.

Up to a dozen helicopters fought the fire at a time.

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission's interim report into the crash that killed Mr Askin found the monsoon bucket's cables may have struck the helicopter's tail rotor blades, as it flew back to a pond for refilling.

It says the helicopter's vertical stabiliser detached, causing the aircraft to roll and crash.

The report recommends the Civil Aviation Authority educate pilots about the dangers of using monsoon buckets.

A helicopter flies a monsoon bucket of water onto an area of the Port Hills fires during the Christchurch fires last Thursday. 16 February 2017

As many as a dozen helicopters at a time fought the Port Hills fire. Photo: RNZ/ Brad White