Pilot cheats death in X'mas tree crash

Published: 24 November, 2011 08:49 IST | Agencies |

A helicopter putting up Christmas lights became tangled in cables before falling from 25ft above the ground

A helicopter putting up Christmas lights became tangled in cables before falling from 25ft above the ground

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A pilot cheated death on live TV when his helicopter crashed as he was putting up a seven-storey Christmas tree.

Television viewers in New Zealand watched in horror as the blades of Greg Gribble's helicopter became tangled in cables attached to scaffolding on Auckland's waterfront.

Crash Site: While fire officials try to salvage the wreck, the pilot Greg
Gribble escaped with some minor head injuries. Pic/Getty Images

Dramatic footage shows the rear of the helicopter snapping, flinging Gribble out of the front door of the helicopter, then slamming him back through its side door.

The aircraft then dropped 25ft to the ground.

Thousands watched the drama unfold on TV in New Zealand. Steve Hall, a witness, said its blades clipped the connecting wire as it hovered below the tip of the tower, sending it into a spin before it crashed into the ground.

The accident has left air-safety campaigners aghast, as many have wondered why a helicopter was allowed to perform such an intricate operation in such a built-up area.

Gribble, a pilot with 20 years' experience was taken to Auckland City Hospital with minor to moderate injuries.

His son Jaz said, "I spoke to him not long after and it sounded like he was okay. But he was obviously quite shaken as you can imagine. Someone must have been looking out for him. That's all we could have prayed for -- that he's safe and happy. Someone must have been on his side."

His daughter Jade Gribble, who is nine months pregnant added: "I'd say he's very, very lucky to walk away."

One witness, who gave his name as Richard, said, "The scary thing was actually seeing everyone on the ground running for their lives. People started running away and then they started running back (to help the pilot). They wrenched the helicopter door open and helped him from the wreckage. It was a surreal feeling to be out of danger but watching it unfold before my eyes."

An investigation has now been launched by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), with lead investigator Steve Walker already on the scene.

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