THE surviving partner of Skydive New Zealand, whose plane crashed at Fox Glacier killing all nine people on board, has disputed the findings of the Transport Accident Investigation Commission.
TAIC’s report into the crash on September 4, 2010 found the converted Fletcher FU24 cross-duster was overloaded with too much weight towards the back.
But John Kerr, who started Skydive with Rod Miller 12 years before the crash, told an inquest on Wednesday he believed the aircraft’s weight and balance were not the reasons for the crash.
He said “jammed controls or controls failure” were the likely cause.
The plane, carrying eight passengers from a tour group preparing for a tandem skydive jump, crashed shortly after take-off at the end of the runway at Fox Glacier airport on September 4, 2010.
Five of the victims worked for Skydive New Zealand and the rest were foreign tourists.
The tourists who died were Patrick Byrne, 26, from County Wexford, Ireland; Annita Kirsten, 23, from Germany; Glenn Bourke, 18, from the Melbourne suburb of Coburg, and dive master Adam Bennett, 47, who had been living in the South Island town of Motueka and Brad Coker, 24, from Farnborough, England.
The New Zealanders were the pilot Chaminda Senadhira, 33, from Queenstown; dive masters Michael Suter, 32, from New Plymouth, and Christopher McDonald, 62, from Mapua; and Skydive New Zealand company director Rodney Miller, 55, from Greymouth.
The inquest in Greymouth also heard on Wednesday from Skydive dive-master Dean Thomas, a veteran of over 7500 jumps.
He said there was nothing unusual about the day of the crash.
While the Christchurch earthquake that day had affected power at the aerodrome, the company had already undertaken five jumps in the morning.
Mr Thomas, who witnessed the fatal crash, said the weather was good.
He described pilot Chaminda Senadhira as someone “who instilled a lot of confidence, and was very safe”.
He recalled “there was no mechanical issues, it was a brand new plane which had been stripped out for skydiving”.
He also said the Skydive company “never cut corners on safety or quality of equipment”.