A 30-year-old Queenstown man was airlifted to Dunedin Hospital with suspected spinal injuries after his parachute twisted and collapsed while he was speed flying near Kelvin Heights last night.
The incident sparked a full-scale search and rescue operation involving emergency services and Coastguard volunteers.
Senior constable Chris Blackford, of Queenstown, said the man was one of four local skydiving pilots trying out new speed-flying manoeuvres after work.
NZone skydive business development manager Derek Melnick confirmed the injured man was an employee of the company. However, he said he was not a pilot.
''He is in Dunedin undergoing assessment with some form of back injury ... he is with his family.''
The employee and three other Queenstown men had gone to Kelvin Heights after work to do some speed flying but Mr Melnick could not confirm the identity of the other three men.
Speed flying was a hybrid form of paragliding and other canopy sports and generally involved the use of a small wing which was flown close to the ground, he said.
''We talking only a few metres off the ground.''
Speed flying was gaining popularity as a sport internationally and had been around Queenstown for a couple of years, he said.
Mr Blackford said the injured man was the first to jump and was injured when his parachute twisted then collapsed on landing.
Emergency services located the man on a beach between Jardine Park and Jacks Point. The Coastguard was deployed to the area as a back up in case the helicopter was unable to reach the man.
The man was flown to hospital after an impressive helicopter landing on the beach in the dark, Mr Blackford said.
- The Southland Times
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