14 Feb 2017

Port Hills fire claims a life

5:57 pm on 14 February 2017

A pilot has died after a helicopter battling fires on the Port Hills near Christchurch crashed this afternoon.

A helicopter is seen fighting a fire in Christchurch's Port Hills.

A helicopter is seen fighting a fire in Christchurch's Port Hills. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

A dozen helicopters have been involved in the battle against a blaze on Early Valley Road and a fire near Dyers Pass Road today.

Police said the fatal crash happened at about 2.30pm in the area above the Sugarloaf car park.

The male pilot, who was the only person in the helicopter, was killed.

Inspector Lane Todd would not pinpoint the crash site but said the helicopter went down within the "wider fire scene".

"It's too early [to give] the exact specifics of the crash," Mr Todd said.

Emergency services were at the crash scene and police expected to do a scene examination tomorrow, Mr Todd said.

Police were in the process of telling the pilot's family, so Mr Todd would not name the pilot nor the company he worked for.

"Our thoughts are with the families and also with the wider emergency services community who have been fighting this fire for over 24 hours."

St John sent an ambulance, a first response unit, and a Westpac rescue helicopter to the scene.

Selwyn principal rural fire officer Douglas Marshall said the death was an "absolute tragedy".

"Firefighting is difficult, dangerous work, but no-one ever anticipates this type of activity occurring," he said.

"Our thoughts are with the deceased's family."

Some helicopter pilots had resumed firefighting efforts, but others were still down.

It was up to pilots whether they would continue after the helicopter pilot's death.

"No doubt" some would choose to stop, and authorities respected their decision, Mr Marshall said.

"It is a difficult time."

The CAA, along with police, will be investigating the crash.

Police said they did not yet know what may have caused the helicopter to crash.

The two fires are both still burning, but under control.