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First responders to a fatal helicopter crash in New Zealand tore the front window of the downed plane to free the survivors, fearing it would catch fire.

Two people were killed and three others, all children, were seriously injured when a helicopter crashed into a rocky beach at the mouth of the Kekerengu River, north of Kaikōura.

Since then, they have been airlifted to Wellington Hospital.

A helicopter crashed north of Kaikōura, leaving two dead and three injured. (Brya Ingram / Stuff)

Kekerengu resident Ian Mehrtens said that when he first saw the helicopter from his accommodation, it looked like it was coming ashore.

“It all happened so fast … it looked normal and then it started to spiral,” he said.

“It got out of control so fast.”

Mr. Mehrtens rushed to the scene across the street on a quad bike.

About four or five members of the public were already there.

The front window was opened to release the survivors.

He said he pulled a girl out of the rubble.

“There was nothing you could do except get them [passengers] out of there. Especially since there is a possibility [the helicopter] it could catch fire, “he said.

“We were lucky there was a tall guy helping. He was able to come up and grab the passengers.”

Three children have been taken to the hospital. (Scott Hammond / Stuff)
The downed helicopter is believed to be an EC120. (Scott Hammond / Stuff)

The helicopter was at sea, which was at low tide at the time.

A tractor dragged the helicopter out of the water, Mehrtens said.

Emergency services arrived “pretty quickly,” he said. The first response came from local farmers.

A staff member at The Store in Kekerengu said the helicopter was coming ashore when it hit the beach.

“The helicopter is not in the sea, but a tractor has pulled it away from the ocean as it was starting to smoke.”

He said that the locals had been incredible in their quick response to the accident.

A police spokesman said no further details about the dead and injured, including ages and genders, would be released until the family had been contacted.

Rescuers at the accident site near the water. (Brya Ingram / Stuff)
Eyewitnesses described seeing the helicopter spiraling as it fell to the ground. (Maia Hart / Stuff)

The Civil Aviation Authority and the Transport Accident Investigation Commission have also been informed.

The downed helicopter is believed to be an EC120, which is believed to be overdue.

A spokeswoman for the New Zealand Transportation Agency said the accident was not related to a close haere ra (farewell) of the recovery of North Canterbury’s transportation infrastructure for Kaikōura residents following state highway repairs. 1 after the 2016 earthquake.

Three helicopters were called to the crash site, one from Christchurch, Nelson and Wellington, along with fire, police and ambulance services.

Darryl Papesch, who is from the national headquarters of Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ), was in the area at the time.

“We were at the fire station down the street when we got the call,” Papesch said.

“We had [fire] Kaikōura and Seddon services, so we had between 16 and 20 people here. “

Volunteers and community members did a good job with the “chaotic situation,” he said.

This story originally appeared in Things and has been reproduced with permission.


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