23 Nov 2011

Pilot survives helicopter crash in central Auckland

9:49 pm on 23 November 2011

An investigation is under way into a helicopter crash on Auckland's waterfront which the pilot miraculously survived with just cuts and bruises to his head.

The aircraft went down at about 10.30am on Wednesday while it was installing a Christmas tree for Telecom near the Marine Events Centre at the Viaduct Basin.

The Civil Aviation Authority says the helicopter has been handed back to the owner.

Civil Aviation Authority investigator Steve Walker says his first impression on seeing the wreckage was that it was astounding no one was seriously hurt.

"It was extraordinary that the people at the accident site actually suffered little, if no injury," he said.

A preliminary report will be ready in about four weeks.

Radio New Zealand's reporter says the wreckage is being removed.

The helicopter crashed onto its rear and the nose snapped in half. The engine spilled out of the aircraft.

The Fire Service says the pilot was trying to fix a Christmas tree to a steel structure when someone released a rope and there was a malfunction.

Assistant Area Commander Paul Turner says none of the 200 litres of fuel on board leaked.

"All we have got is reports that when they released the winch cable ... something up there malfunctioned and brought the helicopter down onto the deck," he said.

Telecom says it is extremely regrettable that the crash happened but the company is grateful that the pilot and ground crew helping to erect the tree walked away relatively unscathed.

Spokesperson Mark Watts says he is sure they are extremely shocked at what they were involved in.

Witnesses describe impact

A witness in a nearby building says he saw the aircraft flying low, then heard a "hell of a bang" and saw the debris.

He says it looked like something from a movie.

Another witness, Justin Lum, was working in a clothing shop close to the scene and says the helicopter got into trouble suddenly while it had a cable hanging from it.

"It was just lowering itself down, probably just to a level where they can de-tag the cable or take the cable off and take off again," he says.

"It looked like it fell backwards, like the back propeller snapped and then it just dropped."