The following is an update on progress with the New Zealand Transport Accident Investigation Commission’s inquiry into the fatal helicopter crash on the Fox Glacier in November last year.
The Commission is separate from other agencies that may take criminal, civil or regulatory action against a person or entity. It is conducting an independent inquiry into the accident for the purpose of determining the causes and circumstances of the accident, rather than to ascribe blame.
The crash site was in a heavily crevassed area well up the Fox Glacier. Soon after the crash the substantive part of the wreckage was removed and taken to the Commission’s technical facility in Wellington for inspection.
In April the Commission engaged a team of locally-based professional mountaineers to undertake a second recovery operation after snow melt revealed further wreckage. This was done under the guidance of the Commission’s investigator in charge. This wreckage was also taken to the Commission’s technical facility in Wellington. The Commission’s investigators and a contracted expert engineer on the helicopter type have closely inspected the wreckage. The wreckage has also been reviewed by a team from France comprising an engineer from the helicopter manufacturer and three investigators from the French air accident investigation agency Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses (BEA).
The engine has been inspected in the United States by the engine manufacturer under the direct supervision of the Commission’s investigator in charge.
The Commission is still collecting evidence from Police and information from the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority. “However, we are now well into the analysis phase of the inquiry, where all available evidence is pieced together in order to identify the causes and circumstances of the accident,” says the Commission’s Chief Investigator Captain Tim Burfoot. This phase typically involved the Commissioners and the investigators, as well as the various overseas entities participating in the inquiry. “We still anticipate the final report being made public before the end of June next year.”