The pilot who walked away from a helicopter crash virtually unscathed yesterday said it happened so quickly it was like a dream.
Greg Gribble had been undertaking what he says is "probably the simplest lift we had ever done", installing a portion of inner frame while erecting the Telecom Christmas Tree.
Video footage of the crash on Auckland's waterfront shows what looks like a cable getting looped under the helicopter and clipped by the rotor blades.
Gribble said he has watched the footage "too many times".
"It's not a nice thing to look at. I don't really want to see it again."
The tail of the helicopter was snapped off as it hit the ground and one of its three blades was sliced off. Parts of the wreckage were found hundreds of metres away at the Viaduct Events Centre.
Gribble was thrown halfway out of the helicopter which also missed several people standing below.
Although visibly shaken by the accident, he was mostly unharmed besides a bump on the head and a few scrapes on his arms and legs.
"I'm very grateful that nobody else got hurt, that's the main thing. I've walked out of it, the guy under the helicopter walked out of it," he said.
Gribble told media he has little recollection of the actual crash.
"It happened so quick it was like a dream really. It was just like 'bang' and the next thing I had a couple of guys undoing my belt and dragging me out."
The mangled wreckage of the craft is now at Ardmore Airport where Gribble and insurance assessors have been picking through the pieces.
Cranes used in previous years
In the past Telecom has used cranes to erect its Christmas tree, however because of the decision to move the tree in Auckland Viaduct the company contracted to install the tree, Uni-Rig, recommended a chopper instead.
Uni-Rig has a strong track record, and has rig sets for films including The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
The company also rigged stages for the Rugby World Cup's opening ceremony.
Owner of Uni-Rig, Scott Anderson, is seen on the helicopter crash footage undertaking a rehearsed manoeuvre before the craft came crashing down.
Gribble said they did a huge amount of safety planning and paperwork leading up to the simple operation.
The pilot said he did not want to comment on the cause of the accident at this stage.
"We've got pretty good ideas actually on what happened but I'm not going to go down that track," Gribble said.
Investigations are continuing into the cause of the spectacular crash which was captured on camera by TVNZ.
Civil Aviation Authority probe
The Civil Aviation Authority says the helicopter company Helisika Agricultural Ltd was carrying out an operation under a CAA rule covering external load operations.
The operator's compliance with the rule will form part of the CAA investigation, which is ongoing, it said.
Under the rule, the company is not required to seek prior approval from the CAA to carry out lifting work, but if the work is to be done in congested areas, prior planning is required.
This includes a thorough risk identification and mitigation process, charts depicting flight routes and altitudes, a means of avoiding obstruction and details of actions to be taken in the event of a serious malfunction of the helicopter.
The planning also includes notification to the local territorial authority (Auckland City Council) of the planned work, public notice of the operation, and a means of segregating members of the public from the area of operation, unless the person is essential to the operations and has been briefed about the normal and emergency procedures to be followed.
It also includes two-way communications with the ground and compliance with any requirements or conditions stipulated by the local authority.
The CAA says it intends to publish its report on the accident within four weeks.
The CAA will closely analyse the TVNZ footage of the crash and question eyewitnesses who told ONE News it appeared the pilot didn't have much margin for error.
Equipment was moved in to clear the wreckage of the B2 Squirrel helicopter after the CAA completed its scene investigation. A crane levelled the wreckage and the fuel was pumped off before the chopper was taken away in pieces.
CAA inspector Steven Walker said in terms of safety certain processes and procedures need to be adhered to and they'll "be looking at whether or not this operation actually adhered to those processes".
Telecom has released a statement about the crash and said it is "extremely glad the pilot and ground crew were not seriously injured, and will assist any investigations into the crash as required".
It says it hopes the fibre optic tree will still be up by
December 2. The tree attracts over 150,000 visitors each year and
is made up of 375,000 lights.