Several items of wreckage from a Eurocopter (Squirrel) helicopter that crashed on Fox Glacier in November last year were recovered yesterday by the Transport Accident Investigation Commission using professional mountaineers and a locally based helicopter.
The Squirrel helicopter crashed on 21 November last year (2015) in a heavily crevassed area of the Fox Glacier killing all seven on board. The helicopter was on a tourist flight at the time.
The Transport Accident Investigation Commission immediately opened an inquiry with the aim of finding out what went wrong and to identify any safety issues so similar accidents can be avoided in future. A five-strong investigation team conducted the initial scene examination and inquiries at Fox Glacier at the time of the accident. A substantial amount of wreckage was recovered then but some parts were either buried under snow or had landed down inaccessible crevasses. Other parts were buried when a glacial ice wall collapsed.
The wreckage recovered yesterday included belly panels, some seats, and also fragmented parts of the helicopter. Chief Investigator of Accidents Captain Tim Burfoot said the warmer temperatures over the summer had resulted in a greater than usual snow and ice melt. “As a result, several items of wreckage that had previously been hidden or considered too unsafe to recover, had become more accessible.
“We always aim to recover as much wreckage as possible and practicable without endangering those involved and I am happy to say the recovery yesterday was successful,” Captain Burfoot said.
The items are being sent to the Commission’s technical facility in Wellington for further examination.
The inquiry is currently expected to be completed no earlier than May 2017.
The Commission may issue urgent recommendations at any time should these be necessary.