13 Oct 2011

NZ civil aviation to investigate Samoa helicopter crash

6:53 am on 13 October 2011

A helicopter crash near Samoa in which its Auckland-based pilot was killed will be investigated by New Zealand's Civil Aviation Authority.

The helicopter belonged to the purse seiner Preton, which is owned by Tri Marine International, the company that's taking over the former Samoa Packing plant in Atu'u.

The US Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment Unit in American Samoa assisted local police in investigating the crash and determine jurisdiction as the crash occurred at sea.

Coast Guard Lt. Steven Caskey said it was determined that the crash occurred just off Tokelau so the crash area belonged to New Zealand.

The crash which occurred October 2 while the helicopter was flying between two tuna boats killed the 34 year old pilot, Eduardo Lavalle of Mexico.

His passenger, understood to be a tuna boat captain, survived the accident and managed to free Mr Lavalle from the wreckage, but efforts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful.

The helicopter, a Robertson R44, was registered in New Zealand.

A spokesman for Tri Marine International in Pago Pago said the pilot's body will be flown to Mexico on Thursday night.