Kaikōura coast helicopter crash: Parents farewelled

The North Canterbury couple who died in a helicopter crash north of Kaikoura – leaving their two young children orphaned – have been farewelled at a funeral service today.

Andrew Hamish Davidson, 60, and his wife Lin Chen, 39, died when their helicopter crashed into the beach at Kēkerengū on Tuesday afternoon.

Their two children and another child survived the crash but were injured and pulled from the wreckage by locals who rushed to the scene.

Davidson was the pilot.

The couple were remembered at a “celebration of life” service at the Westpark Chapel in Christchurch before a private cremation this afternoon.

Their families asked that media did not attend the service.

Hundreds of mourners attended the service, including many school children in uniform.

A spokeswoman for Wellington Hospital said the families had also requested no further information be given about the condition of the children.

Funeral notices described Davidson as a loved husband, father, brother, brother-in-law and uncle, and Chen as a loved wife, mother and daughter.

The devastated family also gave “special thanks” to the emergency services and volunteers who “provided help and care at the scene”.

It is understood Davidson was flying his family and another child from his North Canterbury home to Kēkerengū Beach for lunch.

The spot is popular for helicopter pilots as they can land on the stone beach and passengers can enjoy lunch at a local cafe.

Witnesses said the crash happened at about 12.40pmas Davidson came in to land – that the aircraft suddenly started to spin, then “nosedived”.

Ian Mehrtens, who turned 69 the day of the crash, was one of the first on the scene.

He lives across the road from the beach and he and his wife Lyn saw the crash happen.

He and other locals rushed to the scene and began hauling the victims out, terrified the smoking wreckage would go up in flames at any moment.

“It was just coming in to land and I thought he was putting on a display for the passengers, showing them how the helicopter worked,” Mehrtens told the Herald on Tuesday night.

“It started spinning… then it just disappeared… clunk… bang. I thought, ‘S***, oh my God’ – it just nosedived down and I thought, ‘Crikey, they are going to need some help.

“[The kids] were screaming in pain… The older girl, she wasn’t good.

“There were six of us trying to get them out – the worst part was trying to get them out of their seatbelts.”

On Wednesday, investigators from the Transport Accident Investigation Commission arrived at the scene, spending much of the day picking through the mangled wreckage as they tried to piece together what had caused the fatal crash.

A recovery team arrived later and used a crane to remove the helicopter from the beach.

It was driven by truck to a hangar for further and more in depth examination.

The cause of the crash is not expected to be confirmed for some time.

Davidson and Chen were from Kaiapoi, north of Christchurch city. He had just taken ownership of the Eurocopter EC120B machine in October.

The businessman from Ohoka in North Canterbury had set up the helicopter charter company Glenloch Helicopters Ltd a month earlier.

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