5 Aug 2010

Helicopter pilot had been texting before fatal crash

2:00 pm on 5 August 2010

An investigation into a fatal helicopter crash in Wanaka two years ago has found that the pilot was texting on his cellphone before the crash.

The body of the pilot, Morgan Saxton, was recovered from inside the helicopter, which was retrieved from Lake Wanaka four days after the crash in November 2008.

There were no witnesses to the crash, but investigators have found that an event known as mast bump, in which the rotor blades strike the helicopter's cabin, occurred before the crash.

The investigation also found that Mr Saxton had been texting on his cellphone and may have been too distracted to recover from the situation that arose.

Because not all of the helicopter's components were recovered, the commission says, its finding is inconclusive.

Convicted of stealing greenstone

Morgan Saxton and his father David had been released from prison on bail in June 2008, pending an appeal against their convictions for stealing Ngai Tahu greenstone.

In October the Court of Appeal upheld the pair's convictions, saying the Crown had proved beyond reasonable doubt that neither man believed he was authorised to take pounamu.

But the court quashed David Saxton's jail sentence and imposed six months' home detention instead.