A helicopter pilot has died while fighting wildfires in Christchurch’s Port Hills.
Superintendent Lane Todd, the Canterbury Metro Commander, said the helicopter crashed just after 2.30pm today in the area above the Sugar Loaf carpark while battling fires which have a combined area of approximately 580ha.
Up to 15 helicopters, a plane, rural tankers, a Defence Force tanker and 100 firefighters have been trying to contain the blazes on the edge of the city since Monday night.
Police have not named the pilot.
Supt Todd said police and the Civil Aviation Authority would investigate the circumstances surrounding the crash.
A CAA spokeswoman confirmed the pilot was the sole occupant on board.
Douglas Marshall, principal rural fire authority officer at the Selwyn District Council, said the accident was a tragedy.
“Firefighting is difficult and dangerous work…our thoughts are with the deceased [person’s] family at this time.”
Mr Marshall said it was possible a number of pilots involved in helping to douse flames would want to stand down, following the accident, and authorities were respecting that decision.
St John spokesman Ian Henderson said they sent an ambulance and the Westpac Rescue Helicopter to the crash site but the person had died at the scene.