Two people have died and three have been left seriously injured in a “horror” helicopter crash on a beach 200km north of Christchurch on Tuesday.
The three survivors were dragged free from the wreckage by locals who had watched in horror as the helicopter spiralled downwards at a rivermouth north of Kaikōura, on New Zealand’s South Island, The NZ Herald reports.
Those who survived the impact – believed to include children – were badly hurt and have been flown to hospital.
“Further details regarding the deceased and injured, including ages and genders, will not be released until all necessary family notifications have been carried out,” police said in a statement.
The crash took place at the Kekerengu rivermouth at Clarence, a small town 30km north of Kaikōura, at 12.42pm.
The Civil Aviation Authority is investigating.
Kaikoura i-SITE Visitor Information Centre manager Fiona Farquhar said the helicopter was not from any of their local operators.
Local resident Ian Mehrtens thought the chopper was landing, until it started spinning around and around.
The chopper crashed on to the beach and he headed to the scene where he saw people, some with tractors, rushing to help remove people from the wreckage.
“I didn’t really count [how many] because it was just the stress of the moment to get people out,” he told Newstalk ZB.
He stayed at the scene until emergency services arrived.
Around six or seven police cars arrived from all directions before five or six fire support crew and doctors arrived too.
“Everyone is there now. I couldn’t do any more so I just came home,” Ian Mehrtens said.
Coastal Lodge owner Lyn Mehrtens watched as the chopper plunged to the ground, spinning in circles as it descended.
“We just watched it go round and round and round,” said Mrs Mehrtens.
“It’s scary. You’re just so helpless. You can’t do anything.”
Mrs Mehrtens said her husband raced over to the crash site, and others in the community were on tractors doing what they could to help those inside the wreckage.
Everyone who could was helping until emergency crews arrived.
The chopper appeared to have crashed near a popular spot for heli-tourists to visit.
A spokeswoman for Kaikoura Helicopters Ltd said it was not one of their machines.
Charity health organisation St John sent three helicopters to the scene – one from Wellington, Nelson, and Christchurch.
But it was a race against time for other emergency crews to get to the remote area.
A spokesman says an ambulance was on the way from Kaikōura, as well as an intensive care paramedic and a manager from Blenheim.
He says the crews are still making their way to the scene after they were called at 12.42pm.
The 60km journey from Kaikōura to Clarence will take 48-minutes to drive along State Highway 1, according to Google Maps.
The drive from Blenheim, meanwhile, will take 52-minutes to drive just shy of 68km.
Police confirmed the crash near the Kekerengu rivermouth, north of Kaikōura.
“Emergency services were alerted to the crash at 12.40pm and are currently en route to the scene,” police said.
“At this early stage there is no confirmed information regarding the number of people who were on board the helicopter or any injuries sustained.”
This article originally appeared on The NZ Herald and was reproduced with permission