Westport townsfolk are in ''disbelief'' over the death of two local men in a microlight crash overnight, Buller mayor Pat McManus says.
A Solid Energy rescue helicopter found the wreckage below the high-tide mark at Carters Beach, close to Westport Airport, about 9.30am today, Rescue Co-ordination Centre New Zealand spokesman Michael Flyger said.
The centre was notified about 8pm yesterday that a microlight with two men on board was overdue, he said.
A search began early today, but a member of public found the wreckage just as it got under way.
"Two deceased persons were found with the wreckage,'' Flyger said.
He understood conditions were foggy last night.
Flyger said the Civil Aviation Authority would investigate.
Conditions were clear when the men took off last night, but residents report that fog rolled in soon after and cleared early today.
McManus said news of the deaths had quickly spread through Westport, which was in ''disbelief''.
He said both men, who were friends, were long-term locals from long-term local families.
''It has a big impact on small communities. It came as quite a shock."
''They were pretty close to home.''
One of the men he knew personally.
McManus said it was yet another blow for the West Coast, still reeling from nine deaths in a plane crash at Fox Glacier in September 2010 and 29 deaths in the Pike River mine disaster in November 2010. McManus said yesterday's fog was ''unusual'' for this time of year, especially after a hot day.
''The sea fog just rolled in from nowhere,'' he said.
''I wondered if it was a remnant from the Australian fires.''
- © Fairfax NZ News