17 Feb 2019

Helicopter crashes during battle against Tasman fire

7:20 pm on 17 February 2019

A pilot has escaped with minor injuries after his helicopter crashed while he was fighting the Tasman fire.

Nelson fire, aerial view over Eves Valley, Pidgeon Valley and Redwood Valley.

Smoke over Eves, Pidgeon and Redwood valleys on Friday. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

He was taken to Nelson Hospital for assessment this afternoon.

The company that owns the helicopter which crashed, Reid Helicopters, said the pilot jettisoned the monsoon bucket and made a mayday call in accordance with standard operating procedures, before making a hard landing next to a road in the firefighting area.

No caption

The road to Eves Valley has been cordoned off since the crash. Photo: RNZ

The police and the Transport Accident Investigation Commission are investigating the crash.

Tasman's acting police commander, Zane Hooper, said police had been in touch with the man's family and the company.

Fire and Emergency had stopped flights after the crash, but Civil Aviation has now approved the resumption of air operations.

The Tasman fires started nearly two weeks ago after a spark from a tractor ignited tinder dry grass and scrub on Pigeon Valley Hill, about 30km south of Nelson.

The fire, which has covered more than 2000 hectares, has claimed one cottage and seen up to 3000 residents evacuated. Up to 150 firefighters and dozens of helicopters have been battling the blaze.

While the flames are largely out now, there are still lots of hotspots underground which can flare up quickly.

- RNZ/ Otago Daily Times

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs