8 Oct 2014

Chopper search called off for night

8:18 pm on 8 October 2014

Ground search and rescue teams are camping out tonight but high winds have grounded the four helicopters that were searching for a lost helicopter near Nelson.

Kahurangi National Park

Kahurangi National Park. Photo: Photo NZ

The commercial Robinson 44, with just the pilot on board, dropped off radar yesterday morning.

Four helicopters and five land-based search teams have been searching for the missing chopper which disappeared during a flight from the West Coast to Nelson yesterday.

The helicopters searched the area around the missing chopper's last known position, about 35km west of Motueka in the Kahurangi National Park.

Two four-person land search and rescue teams worked in the Flora River area since 8am, and further teams were sent in this afternoon.

Search and rescue controller Greg Johnston said the weather restricted the search all day, with high winds stopping the helicopters doing really low, detailed searching.

"The weather wasn't great this morning so we were delayed," he said.

"When it did clear and we got in there, we had increasing wind, so we did do some reasonably good searching but because of the increasing wind conditions it just wasn't safe for those helicopters to do that really low, detailed searching."

He said the search area was divided into smaller areas and each were inspected by the helicopters operating at low altitude and low speed.

Yesterday, rescue helicopters from Nelson and Greymouth searched the areas of its last known location but failed to find any trace of it, as did a night search by the Nelson Rescue Helicopter using night vision equipment.

Rescue Co-ordination Centre spokesperson Steve Rendle said much of the same ground was be covered today but that the position of the sun through the day could change the visibility in bush-covered terrain.

"The light through the day where the sun is can often change the visibility in that sort of terrain and that sort of bush cover, so really it's a case of making sure we've had a very good look, probably multiple times, at that search area."

The search will continue tomorrow.