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Cable blamed for Port Hills chopper death

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 11/05/2017

A monsoon bucket cable striking the tail rotor of Steve Askin's helicopter was the likely cause of the fatal crash as the pilot battled Christchurch's Port Hills fires earlier this year, an interim report says.

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission has released its interim findings into the Eurocopter AS350 crash on February 13, which killed the 37-year-old.

The cable of the monsoon bucket hit the tail rotor of the Eurocopter AS350 when the bucket flew up when the helicopter was returning to a dipping pool, it says.

Damage to the rotor blades was consistent with having been struck by the wire cables, causing the chopper to roll and plunge into the ground, TAIC investigators said.

There was corresponding damage on the cable cluster, while the bucket and the strop remained attached to the helicopter's fixed hook.

A camera pointing at the monsoon bucket also showed the bucket flew up towards the tail while the aircraft returned to the dipping pool.

The wildfires broke out on the Port Hills between Lyttelton Harbour and the suburbs of Christchurch and took more than a week to control.

After the crash, all firefighting flights were suspended and didn't resume until the pilots had been debriefed and had a rest.

Each pilot could then decide whether they would continue.

Mr Askin, a former SAS soldier, had been flying helicopters for almost 20 years, and had about 2350 hours' flying experience, including 80 hours of aerial firefighting.

TAIC says further lines of inquiry will involve the helicopter manufacturers and other relevant experts, as well as further examination of the wreckage.

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