20 Jan 2011

Pilot plucked from sea after helicopter crash

6:12 pm on 20 January 2011

A pilot has been recovered alive from the sea after his helicopter crashed in Northland.

The Rescue Coordination Centre says five witnesses at a Waipu golf course just south of Whangarei reported seeing the helicopter flying low above them, then heard a large bang and saw a big splash about 12.15pm on Thursday.

Five boats and two aircraft then began a search for the helicopter in the Bream Bay area.

The Rescue Coordination Centre's search and rescue mission coordinator, Neville Blakemore, says an Air Force Orion first spotted the 23-year-old in the water quite close to the coast.

The man was then picked up by a helicopter and taken to Whangarei Hospital where he is staying overnight for observation.

He was the only person on board the aircraft when it crashed.

Mr Blakemore says the man narrowly escaped with bumps, bruises and hypothermia.

He says the quick actions of witnesses in informing authorities probably saved the pilot's life.

Mr Blakemore says the police are planning on interviewing the pilot.