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Fatal Hood Aerodrome crash: Charges withdrawn

The investigation into a fatal mid-air crash at Hood Aerodrome drew to an unexpected close after the Civil Aviation Authority [CAA] withdrew all charges.

In a surprise move, the CAA said it would not proceed with its prosecution against skydiving company Sky Sports Limited and its director Martin Lloyd for alleged breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.

The decision followed the receipt of defence expert evidence.

Lloyd and his company faced three charges of “exposing individuals to risk, harm, and illness” following a 2019 crash that killed two pilots.

Joshua Christensen, 20, an employee of Lloyd’s Skydive Wellington, was flying a Cessna 185 when he collided with a Tecnam microlight flown by Wairarapa pilot Craig McBride, 66, on a sunny, clear June 16 day.

A recent report by the Transport Accident Investigation Commission [TAIC] found that Christensen’s failure to give way as he joined the landing circuit led to the mid-air collision.

However, TAIC investigators said the young pilot was following standard procedure at the council-owned and operated airfield and, as a result of the investigation, made a suite of recommendations to improve safety at all unattended New Zealand aerodromes.

In a statement issued on February 10, chief executive aviation safety David Harrison said the CAA had investigated the circumstances of the accident, looking at the radio communications, flight paths, compliance with aerodrome rules and the operations of Sky Sports Limited and other users of the Masterton aerodrome.

He said shortly before going to trial that the CAA had received defence expert evidence that “focused on an alternative view of the key crash factors”.

Stuff reported in 2020 that a Givealittle page had been created to raise funds for Lloyd’s defence, with the organiser claiming the CAA’s actions were “an unjust prosecution against a small aviation operator”.

Harrison said the defence perspective, combined with the CAA’s evidence, led to “the difficult decision not to proceed to trial, and that it would not be in the public interest to do so”.

He said the organisation had advised the victims’ families and the District Court of its decision.

“Since the accident, the runway on which the accident happened was closed, and Hood Aerodrome is seeking to implement a new safety system while operating the two remaining runways.”

Mary Argue
Mary Argue
Mary Argue is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with an interest in justice and the region’s emergency services, regularly covering Masterton District Court, Fire and Emergency and Police.

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