The helicopter crashed this morning while setting up for the installation of a Christmas tree.
The helicopter crashed this morning while setting up for the installation of a Christmas tree. NZ Herald/TVNZ

Shocked crash pilot's miracle escape

THE son of a helicopter pilot involved in a spectacular crash at Auckland's Viaduct this morning says he had been looking forward to his part in putting up Telecom's Christmas tree.

Greg Gribble's helicopter crashed - seemingly when its blades got caught in wires attached to scaffolding being erected before the tree arrived.

The crash was caught live on camera, during a web stream being broadcast by TVNZ.

The helicopter came down at the site of the Maori Waka had been set up during the Rugby World Cup.

Mr Gribble, head of commercial helicopter company Helisika, was flung out the front door of the helicopter during the crash, before falling back through its side door.

Footage shows him narrowly missing the still-spinning rotor blades.

He was led away from the scene, supported by two workers who were on the ground.

Mr Gribble's son Jaz Gribble, who also flies for Helisika, said he was filled with shock and relief, when he heard of his father's miracle escape.

"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."

Mr Gribble had been flying when the crash happened and had only been told of the crash by his wife when he landed after 11am.

He was now rushing to hospital to see his father and not looking forward to viewing footage of the crash.

"He's my Dad, so it's a little close to the bone for a start. This has shaken me."

Mr Gribble said his father was an experienced pilot who had been looking forward to the "special job" of erecting the Telecom Christmas tree.

Early reports he received from ground crew were that a cable had caught in the helicopter rotors and caused it to come crashing down.

"Something must have gone horribly wrong that shouldn't have happened."

Dramatic witness accounts

A witness, Kyle Geddis, told APNZ he heard the helicopter hovering and then a loud bang.

Inspector Cornell Kluesien told APNZ the pilot was the only person in the helicopter and he had escaped injury.

Rebecca Trelease, a worker at the Viaduct, said the helicopter had been erecting a tower for the Telecom Christmas tree before the crash.

She said it was hovering at just over head height when a man on the ground pulled on a cable still attached to the helicopter.

That seemed to put it off balance, triggering the crash, she said.

Another witness, Richard, was using binoculars to try to work out what the helicopter was doing when the drama unfolded before his eyes.

The helicopter had appeared to be about 5m from the ground when something snapped and it plunged.

"The scary thing was actually seeing everyone on the ground running for their lives,'' he told APNZ.

"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, Richard said.

Most of those involved were wearing hi-visibility vests and Richard believed they were probably involved in the operation.

It was a surreal feeling to be out of danger but watching it unfold before his eyes, he said.

"The nice thing is I wasn't looking at someone's leg being chopped off.''

The area was often busy at that time of the morning but wasn't today.

"If it was lunch time it could have been really nasty.''

Pilot Greg Gribble has 20 years of flying experience.

His biography on the company's website said he has had 1000s of hours experience in agricultural services, such as lifting.

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