Pilots killed in crashes in Canterbury, Auckland

JOELLE DALLY
Last updated 18:15 19/01/2014
Plane crash
DANIEL TOBIN/Fairfax NZ

The scene of a fatal plane crash in Canterbury.

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Two aircraft crashes have claimed lives at either end of the country.

A glider pilot has died in a crash on farmland south of Auckland and pilot Martin Lowen, 55, died in a crash earlier in the afternoon, west of Christchurch.

Lowen's plane hit trees and burst into flames, police said.

The crash happened on private property on Springfield Rd, about 63 kilometres west of Christchurch, at 12.05pm today.

St John ambulance staff attended but Lowen was dead at the scene.

There were no other passengers on board. Police said the aircraft had been towing a glider and had taken off from the nearby Canterbury Gliding Club airfield.

The gilder cut away, and the aircraft turned, hit trees and burst into flames, police said.

In an unrelated incident, police said a glider took off from the Auckland Gliding Club in Appleby Rd about 2pm.

The glider crashed about 4pm on farmland in the Drury Hills area.

A police spokesman said the pilot was located, deceased, by emergency services but a name had not yet been released as next-of-kin had not yet been notified.

CANTERBURY PILOT 'EXPERIENCED'

In Canterbury, Gliding Club deputy chief flying instructor Warwick Bethwaite said Lowen was an experienced pilot.

"He's been in aviation 20 plus years. He's spent a lot of hours in that particular plane," he said. It was "complete conjecture" what went wrong. His thoughts were with Lowen's family, he said.

About five men from the club ran straight across after seeing the crash. Others alerted emergency services.

"It would have been terrible, shocking. It will upset people for a long time."

"He was part of a very close-knit club. We're all going to miss him terribly."

Lowen was married with children, he said. The plane, a PA28236 Dakota aircraft, had been leased by the club for many years.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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