3 Dec 2011

Crashed helicopter recovered from sea in Northland

10:11 pm on 3 December 2011

The Civil Aviation Authority has recovered a helicopter from the sea, about one kilometre off the coast of the Karikari Peninsula, in Northland.


Two men, pilot John de Ridder and Department of Conservation ranger William Macrae, died when the Squirrel helicopter came down in Maitai Bay while helping to fight a big scrub fire on the peninsula on Wednesday.

Their bodies were recovered on Thursday night.

CAA safety inspector Paul Breuilly says it took about an hour on Saturday afternoon to lift the helicopter onto a waiting barge.

He says the wreckage will now be sent back to Pahia overnight, and then Auckland Airport on Sunday, where investigators will inspect the aircraft.

'Strong leads' being investigated

Meanwhile, Northland's rural fire chief Miles Taylor says investigators have secured the area where they believe the fire started.

Mr Taylor told Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint he had been informed that the point of ignition has been identified and they are following strong leads.

Police suspect the fire was deliberately lit. Firefighters say there have been 14 suspicious fires in the Karikari area in the past two years, and many more in other parts of the Far North.

The National Rural Fire Authority says about 40 people attended a community meeting in Karikari on Friday night to discuss the matter.

A spokesperson Trevor Mitchell says the authority will come up with a wide-ranging fire management plan for Northland.