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After four-day search, wreckage of missing helicopter found, with pilot’s body

News from Maritime NZ
The wreckage of a helicopter missing in Kahurangi National Park, 35km west of Motueka, has been found, with the body of the pilot.

The wreckage was found within the search area identified from the Robinson 44 helicopter’s last known position when it went missing on a flight from Karamea to Nelson on Tuesday morning.

This morning a helicopter identified what appeared to be a sheet of paper in the trees. A crewman was winched down and confirmed the paper was linked to the helicopter. The wreckage was found around 3pm.

The Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand has been managing the search which involved up to five helicopters and six ground search and rescue teams over the past four days. Search and rescue coordinator John Ashby praised the efforts of the searchers, while acknowledging the pilot’s family and friends and their loss.

“This is obviously a very sad day for his loved ones and our thoughts are with them,” he said. “This was an extremely challenging search, given the steep terrain and thick bush canopy, and it is a credit to the skills of the searchers that the wreckage has been found. Identifying a single piece of paper from the air is remarkable and that is what has led us to the crash site.”

Mr Ashby also praised the NZ Police, who coordinated the land search. Recovery of the pilot’s body is being handled by the Police.

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission and the Civil Aviation Authority are both investigating the crash.

Earlier News from Maritime NZ
A fourth day of searching has begun for the helicopter missing since Tuesday morning in an area of Kahurangi National Park 35km west of Motueka, in the Nelson region. Five helicopters and six ground teams are again in action, with weather conditions good.

The Robinson 44 helicopter with one person on board went missing on Tuesday morning during a flight from Karamea on the West Coast to Nelson. No emergency beacon signal was detected and the search area is based on information from the helicopter’s tracking system which sent a signal every three minutes.

The area being searched is around 5km in each direction from the last signal received.

Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) search and rescue coordinator Neville Blakemore said: “Because of the steep terrain and the dense bush, it is very difficult to see what is below the canopy of the trees. We will be repeating the search of some areas to see if the different light at different times of the day reveals some clues about what has happened.”

News from Maritime NZ – October 9
No sign has been found today of the helicopter missing since Tuesday morning in an area of Kahurangi National Park 35km west of Motueka, in the Nelson region. Four helicopters and five ground teams, with a total of 20 searchers, were involved in searching. Searching will continue tomorrow, with two fresh ground teams replacing two teams that have been searching in steep, bush-clad terrain for two days.

The area being searched is around 5km in each direction from the last signal received. Today, based on analysis of routes taken on previous flights between Karamea and Nelson, a new area of focus was added within the same broad area.

Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) search and rescue controller Neville Blakemore said all options were being considered in planning the search.

“After consideration of alternative routes taken through the area in the past, we had two ground teams working along another valley and over a saddle which could have been on the route taken,” he said.

“Overnight we’ll be reviewing all elements of the search to date and assessing the best approach to take tomorrow.”

Earlier News from Maritime NZ
Four helicopters and five ground teams have resumed searching for the helicopter missing since Tuesday morning in an area of Kahurangi National Park 35km west of Motueka, in the Nelson region.

High winds that prevented helicopters searching yesterday afternoon have died down and conditions for aerial searching are good.

On the ground, a total of 20 searchers are operating in extremely difficult conditions in steep, bush-covered terrain. A search and rescue dog will not now be used due to a 1080 drop in the area.

No sign has yet been found of the Robinson 44 helicopter with one person on board that went missing on Tuesday morning during a flight from Karamea on the West Coast to Nelson.

No emergency beacon signal has been detected from the missing helicopter and the search area is based on information from the helicopter’s tracking system. The area being searched is around 5km in each direction from that point.

Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) search and rescue controller Neville Blakemore said the focus for the day was completing the detailed search of the area around the helicopter’s last known position.
“After the frustration of yesterday’s high winds, conditions in the air are excellent and all four helicopters are conducting very low altitude, slow-speed searching of the bush canopy,” he said.

“Things are more challenging on the ground and the teams are conducting contour searches, following the lay of the land. The area is covered in very steep ravines so it is very hard work, but the people on the ground are well-trained and committed to a comprehensive search.”

News from Maritime NZ – July 8
High winds have grounded helicopters searching for a helicopter missing in the Nelson region today but the search will resume tomorrow in forecast calmer conditions. No sign has yet been found of the Robinson 44 helicopter with one person on board that went missing yesterday morning during a flight from Karamea on the West Coast to Nelson.

Four helicopters were involved in the search today in steep, bush-clad area 35km west of Motueka, with five land search and rescue teams involving 20 people.

Strong winds later in the day prevented the helicopters searching effectively and the aerial search was suspended in the late afternoon. They will return to the area tomorrow with the land SAR teams camping overnight in the search area.

No emergency beacon signal has been detected from the missing helicopter and the search area is based on information from the helicopter’s tracking system. The area being searched is around 5km in each direction from that point.

Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) search and rescue controller Greg Johnston said the forecast for tomorrow was promising.

“The forecast is for the wind to drop which will hopefully allow the helicopters to maintain the low altitude, low speed flight needed to search effectively in this sort of terrain,” he said.

Earlier News from Maritime NZ
The search for a helicopter missing in the Nelson region is continuing, with four helicopters and five land-based search and rescue teams involved. No sign has yet been found of the Robinson 44 helicopter with one person on board that went missing yesterday morning during a flight from Karamea on the West Coast to Nelson.

High winds are making aerial searching challenging, with two of the smaller (Hughes 500) helicopters struggling to maintain consistent search position above the bush. They are currently on the ground in the area waiting for conditions to ease. The two other larger (Squirrel) helicopters have continued operating with detailed searching of approximately one third of the total search area completed so far today.

The search is focussed on the last known position of the helicopter, in steep, bush-covered terrain, 35km west of Motueka. No emergency beacon signal has been detected from the missing helicopter and the search area is based on information from the helicopter’s tracking system. The area being searched is around 5km in each direction from that point.

Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) search and rescue controller Greg Johnston said while the weather was clear, the wind had been a factor in the operation.

“In this sort of terrain, the aim is to fly at low altitude and low speed, as well hovering at times, to give the best chance of seeing what is beneath the bush canopy,” he said. “That hasn’t been easy in the wind, but we have skilled pilots and trained observers on board the helicopters and progress is being made. The land-based teams are also working hard in very difficult terrain.”

Searching will continue today while light lasts – until approximately 6.30pm.

Earlier news from Maritime NZ
Up to four helicopters and two land-based search and rescue teams will today resume the search for a helicopter that went missing yesterday on a flight from Karamea, on the West Coast to Nelson. Its last known position, at around 8am, was over steep, bush-covered terrain, 35km west of Motueka.

The two land-based teams will focus on a search either side of the Flora River, beginning shortly after 8am.

The helicopter searching will begin around 10am, weather permitting, when the sun has risen sufficiently to reduce the effect of shadows.

A front of bad weather, bringing with it rain, strong winds, and low cloud, is forecast to pass through the area at mid-morning which could delay the air search for a period.

No emergency beacon signal has been detected from the missing helicopter and the search area is based on information from the helicopter’s tracking system. The area being searched is around 5km in each direction from that point.

Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) search and rescue controller Keith Allen said the search area had been divided into smaller sections for today’s search. “The bush canopy in the area is very thick and we will be using the helicopters to conduct a very low altitude, low speed search of those areas. The teams on the ground will have a view up into the canopy and will also check for signs, such as fuel, in the river.”

News from Maritime NZ – October 7
The search for a missing helicopter in the Nelson region continued this evening using a night vision-equipped helicopter. The Nelson Rescue helicopter tried to locate any light sources from a person or from the helicopter. But nothing was found.

The Nelson and Greymouth Rescue Helicopters spent the day searching an area 35km west of Motueka, in Kahurangi National Park, after the Robinson 44 helicopter carrying one man went missing on a flight between Karamea, on the West Coast, and Nelson this morning. The night search was in the same area.

The helicopter left Karamea with another helicopter to make the flight to Nelson for routine maintenance. Its last known position, at around 8am, was over steep bush-covered terrain.

No emergency beacon signal has been detected and the search area is based on information from the aircraft’s tracking system.

Earlier news from Maritime NZ
A search is underway for a helicopter which went missing on a flight between Karamea, on the West Coast, and Nelson this morning. The helicopter, with one man on board, left Karamea with another helicopter to make the flight for routine maintenance. Its last known position, at around 8am, was over steep bush-covered terrain in Kahurangi National Park.

It should have been the first to arrive in Nelson, and the alarm was raised by the second helicopter when it landed. No emergency distress beacon signal has been received, but searching is being carried out in an area 25km west of Motueka, based the last known position of the aircraft.

The Garden City Nelson Rescue Helicopter began searching at around 10am, and the Garden City Greymouth Rescue Helicopter has since been sent to the area to assist.

Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) search and rescue mission controller Greg Johnston said weather conditions in the area were windy but clear.

“We understand there was no communication between the two helicopters during the flight, and they were not in sight of one another. The terrain is very challenging but the rescue helicopters from Nelson and Greymouth are focussing on an area based on information from the aircraft’s tracking system.”