Light plane crash kills one

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 05:00 05/08/2014
Crashed plane Otago

DOWNED: The plane crashed in Poolburn, Central Otago.

Central Otago plane crash
JO MCKENZIE-MCLEAN/Fairfax NZ
ON THE SCENE: Alexandra and Omakau fire crews at the site of the plane crash.

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The owners of a Queenstown fixed-wing scenic flight company are distraught after one of their pilots was killed in a plane crash in Central Otago.

The Glenorchy Air pilot died at the scene of the crash near the Poolburn reservoir, about 20 kilometres east of Alexandra, yesterday afternoon.

Two overseas tourists on the plane were seriously injured.

Senior Sergeant Ian Kerrisk, of Alexandra, said three people were on board the light plane when it crashed in the remote area.

Alexandra fire chief Russell Anderson said the Alexandra fire brigade was sent to the "absolutely remote" location but arrived after the tourists had been flown to Dunedin Hospital.

Queenstown aviator Jules Tapper said he had spoken to the owners of the company, who were distraught.

Glenorchy Air is owned by Robert and Janet Rutherford.

The company started in 1992 and boasts a proud safety record on its website.

"We have a 100 per cent safety record. No-one flying with us since we started our business 21 years ago has been injured," the website says.

Last year, celebrating 20 years in the air, Robert Rutherford told the Mountain Scene newspaper in Queenstown that the company's proudest boast after 20 years was that none of its passengers had even been scratched.

Tapper said the crash was on the flight path of a popular Lord of the Rings scenic flight the company offered to tourists.

"They were where they were supposed to be," he said.

The pilot had been in radio contact with the company from Omarama about 30 minutes before the crash, Tapper said. Police said the weather was fine at the time.

The site was now under the control of the Transport Accident Investigation Commission and Civil Aviation Authority.

Authorities learned of the crash after an emergency beacon was activated about 3.40pm.

Police are expected to assist with the scene examination, which is expected to start today.

They were working to advise the next of kin of all the people involved.

The Rutherfords did not answer calls from The Southland Times last night.

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