Canterbury wedding day helicopter crash: surgeon on vacation, golfers first on scene



Ronnie Ronalde, head of operations at CPG Hotel Group, describes the “horrific” accident with the bride and groom on board. Video / George Heard

A surgeon from a hospital on vacation and four stunned golfers were among the first on the scene after a helicopter carrying a newlywed couple, their wedding photographer and a pilot crashed into a Canterbury seaside resort in the aftermath. midday.

The wedding day horror unfolded on a fairway at the Terrace Downs Resort golf course in Windwhistle, 80 kilometers west of Christchurch, when the Robinson 44 fell while taking the newlyweds into a scenic mountain spot for post-wedding photos.

All four people on board were injured, three of whom were taken by rescue helicopter to Christchurch hospital with serious injuries after the 3:05 p.m. crash. The remaining injured person was transported by St. John Ambulance to the same hospital with moderate injuries.

The Robinson 44 helicopter crashed with four people on board, including a newlywed couple.  Photo / George Heard
The Robinson 44 helicopter crashed with four people on board, including a newlywed couple. Photo / George Heard

Four people playing golf nearby were the first to arrive after the helicopter crashed, said Ronnie Ronalde, COO of CPG Hotels, which owns the resort.

“Four golfers on the next green crossed. They heard a thud and ran for the fairway.”

He was walking past when one of the golfers “called” him to get to the resort, so he hopped into a golf cart with other staff to help him, arriving within minutes to find the occupants of the resort. Robinson 44 “conscious and speaking” but suffering.

“It all happened so fast… we were trying to deal with people until the ambulance arrived… comforting them, putting blankets on them.

“A [staff member] was in the helicopter, consoling [the injured]. “

A surgeon from the hospital staying at the complex also came to help, Ronalde said.

“He took charge.

The helicopter crashed near a sandbox, but photos showed its tail had been sheared off – it came to rest several feet away, tangled around a flag stick.

The newlyweds were seated together in the back of the helicopter, behind the photographer and the pilot, but Ronalde was unsure which of the people on board were seriously injured.

The group was flying to a scenic mountain site – the resort is located next to the Rakaia River and under Mount Hutt and the Southern Alps – and had just started the scheduled 10-minute flight.

“They had just taken off and weren’t that high [off the ground]. “

The Terrace Downs Resort is located close to the mountains of the Southern Alps, including the Mount Hutt ski area.  Image / Google Maps
The Terrace Downs Resort is located close to the mountains of the Southern Alps, including the Mount Hutt ski area. Image / Google Maps

The mountain photo tour was part of the big day, with the reception of around 100 guests to follow, Ronalde said.

“The whole family had come here today to have their reception, which they were having in the gardens, and partly to take pictures. They were going up to the top of the mountain and the reception was to take place after.”

Shocked wedding guests waiting at the resort, including parents of the newlyweds, had to be comforted by staff, with around 30 on duty at the time of the crash, Ronalde said.

The guests were traumatized and confused, he said.

“It’s a big day and all of a sudden it stops… it’s devastating for the family and staff who were there, all of us. It’s a pretty traumatic day.

“[So] we were trying to console everyone and make them as comfortable as possible. “

The tail of the helicopter, seen at right, was sheared off when it crashed into a golf course at Terrace Downs Resort in the Canterbury High Country.  Photo / George Heard
The tail of the helicopter, seen at right, was sheared off when it crashed into a golf course at Terrace Downs Resort in the Canterbury High Country. Photo / George Heard

Some guests, unaware of what had happened, arrived at the scene to be briefed by staff on what had happened.

The helicopter is said to be operated by a Christchurch-based company, but no one from the company could be contacted tonight.

The Civil Aviation Authority said Newstalk ZB they were working with the Transportation Accident Investigation Commission to determine which agency would lead the investigation into this accident.

“Since we were informed… our investigation and response team has been in close contact with the police and first responders as they attended the scene of the accident… [once decided] the agency conducting the investigation will determine the level of investigation to be initiated.

“In the meantime, we ask residents of the Canterbury High Country to avoid the crash site to ensure the site is not contaminated, which could hamper the investigation.”

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