2015 Fox Glacier helicopter crash

2015 Fox Glacier helicopter crash
Accident summary
Date 21 November 2015
Summary Under investigation
Site Fox Glacier, New Zealand
Passengers 6
Crew 1
Fatalities 7 (all)
Survivors 0
Aircraft type Eurocopter AS350
Operator Alpine Adventures
Flight origin Fox Glacier Airstrip
Destination Fox Glacier Airstrip

On 21 November 2015, a sightseeing Eurocopter AS350 helicopter, operated by Alpine Adventures, crashed on Fox Glacier in the South Island of New Zealand. All seven people on board died.[1][2]

Alpine Adventures

Alpine Adventures were the owner and operator of the helicopter. James Patrick Scott was the companies owner and had over 30 years of experience operating helicopters, and the company was a member of the Aviation Industry Association and the Mt Cook & Westland National Parks User Aviation Group.[3]

A few months before the Fox Glacier crash on 27 June 2015 another Alpine Adventures helicopter, a Hughes 369 carrying two hunters and piloted by Brad Maclachlan, crashed near Harihari. McLachlan was seriously injured and the two hunters on board had minor injuries.[4]


At the time of the crash (about 11 am NZDT), it was reported to be heavily overcast and raining. The aircraft crashed into a crevasse approximately 2,500 metres (8,200 ft) up Fox Glacier.[1] According to Alpine Adventures' quality assurance manager, Barry Waterland, the helicopter crashed just after taking off from the glacier at a designated spot called The Chancellor.[5]

Early reports based on the size of the debris field and scorch marks in the hillside above the crash site were thought to indicate that the helicopter had crashed before falling into the glacier. The helicopter did not have a transponder or black box. No mayday call was made suggesting a sudden catastrophic event.[6][7]

There were six passengers, all tourists, on board, four British and two Australians.[1][8]


The pilot, 28-year-old New Zealand citizen Mitchell Paul Gameren, was described as "experienced" with over 3,000 hours of flying. He had had flying experience in both Malaysia and Botswana.[9] Gameren's interest in flying began when he was five, when his mother worked at Southern Lakes Helicopters. He was able to fly fixed winged aircraft by the time he was 17 and then began flying helicopters. From 2011 to 2014, he flew helicopters in Botswana.[10]

Recovery operations

Fox Glacier

The day following the crash four bodies were recovered from the site, but operations were suspended due to worsening weather conditions. The police announced that a further attempt would be made on Wednesday that week. The area where the helicopter crashed was described as highly treacherous, uneven, and moving ice, with 20-metre crevasses. The blocks of ice were described as bigger than buildings.[5]

The weather cleared for an hour on 25 November allowing recovery teams consisting of Police, Alpine Cliff Rescue, and drone operators to land on the glacier. The drone then filmed the site before the weather again closed in.[11][12] The remaining three bodies and most of the wreckage were recovered from the crash site on 26 November.[13]

In late March 2016 more parts were recovered from the crash site by professional mountaineers employed by the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC). The parts had become visible due to snow melt during the summer months.[14]

Crash investigation

In November 2015 TAIC advised that it could take until May 2017 for its Chief investigator of accidents Captain Tim Burfoot to complete the investigation into the cause of the crash.[15][14] The recovered wreckage of the helicopter was taken to TAIC's Wellington site for evaluation.[16] The father of one of the victims of the 2010 New Zealand Fletcher FU24 crash expressed a lack of confidence in TAIC's ability to properly investigate the crash based on destruction of evidence from that crash and New Zealand's lax approach to air safety.[7]

Local news reports stated that the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand (CAA) had received a complaint a few days prior to the crash about the lack of landing markers on the glacier.[17]

At 4:30pm on Friday, 28 May 2016 the CAA suspended the Air Operating Certificate of James Patrick Scott of Alpine Adventures over operational safety concerns. CAA Director Graeme Harris said, The action taken did not in any way pre-determine the outcome of the investigation (into the 2015 helicopter crash) to be carried out. Scott operated Fox and Franz Heliservices, Tekapo Helicopters, and Makarora Helicopters.[3] TAIC advised that its investigation into the crash was now up to analyzing the environment and Alpine Adventures.[4]

One week later, on 3 June the CAA charged Scott and his Organisational System Manager Barry Waterland under Health and Safety legislation at the Greymouth District Court. The case was to be called on 12 July 2016, but was adjourned until early September 2016.[18] By 6 July the CAA advised that the operating licence of James Patrick Scott had been surrendered.[19] Scott and Waterland plead not guilty to the Health and Safety charges, with them being remanded until 30 September.[20]


  1. 1 2 3 "Chopper crash: Tourists 4 Brits, 2 Australians – police". New Zealand Herald. 22 November 2015. Retrieved 22 November 2015.
  2. Greenfield, Charlotte; MacKinnon, Morag (21 November 2015). "Helicopter crashes at New Zealand glacier, killing all seven on board". Reuters.
  3. 1 2 Fox Glacier helicopter company licence suspended after fatal crash, Joanne Carroll, Last updated 16:19, May 30 2016, retrieved 1 June 2016
  4. 1 2 Helicopter pilot still recovering after West Coast, Joanne Carroll, Last updated 17:23, May 31 2016, retrieved 1 June 2016
  5. 1 2 Sherwood, Sam; Hume, Myles; Carroll, Joanne (23 November 2015). "Helicopter pilot made no mayday call before crash". Retrieved 24 November 2015.
  6. "All Bodies Recovered from Fox Glacier's "Suicide Alley". "New Zealand is Slapdash with Air Safety" Says Grieving Father". E2NZ. 26 November 2015. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
  7. 1 2 "New Zealand is Slapdash with Air Safety". The Times. 23 November 2015. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
  8. "Australian victims of Fox Glacier helicopter tragedy in New Zealand named". news.com.au. 22 November 2015. Retrieved 22 November 2015.
  9. "Pictured: Helicopter pilot who died along with four British tourists on New Zealand glacier". Daily Mail. 22 November 2015. Retrieved 22 November 2015.
  10. Baker, Che (1 December 2015). "Helicopter pilot Mitchell Gameren farewelled in Queenstown after Fox Glacier crash". Stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 2 December 2015.
  11. "Recovery resumes on Fox Glacier". New Zealand Police. 25 November 2015. Retrieved 25 November 2015.
  12. "Fox Glacier site filmed by drone". New Zealand Police. 25 November 2015. Retrieved 26 November 2015.
  13. "All Fox Glacier crash victims recovered". New Zealand Police. 26 November 2015. Retrieved 26 November 2015.
  14. 1 2 Fox Glacier helicopter wreck parts retrieved, Joanne Carroll, 13:14, 1 April 2016, retrieved 21 April 2016
  15. "May be months before crash enquiry ends". New Zealand Herald. 23 November 2015. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
  16. "Fox Glacier crash wreckage heads to Wellington". 27 November 2015. Retrieved 30 November 2015.
  17. Parkin, Michael (27 November 2015). "CAA complaint just days before fatal Fox Glacier helicopter crash". TV1 News. Retrieved 30 November 2015.
  18. CAA files charges against Fox Glacier helicopter crash company, Kurt Bayer, New Zealand Herald, 10:55 AM Friday 3 June 2016, retrieved 3 June 2016
  19. Helicopter firm gives up licence after Fox Glacier crash, Radio New Zealand, 4:27 pm on 6 July 2016, retrieved 28 July 2016
  20. Fox Glacier helicopter company pair plead not guilty to safety breaches after fatal crash, Joanne Carroll, Last updated 13:51, 6 September 2016, retrieved 3 November 2016

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