Skydiver had jumped almost 4000 times

JESSICA MADDOCK
Last updated 10:22 17/11/2012

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A skydiver killed near Wanaka on Thursday had only worked briefly for Skydive Lake Wanaka, but had already earned the respect and love of the crew, the company's director says.

Italian Antonino Arillotta hit the ground and died when both his main and reserve parachutes failed to open.

Arillotta, 38, had been contracted by the company and was filming a commercial tandem skydive at the time. He had been in New Zealand only a few weeks.

The accident happened in the grounds of the Have A Shot sports complex, across State Highway 6 from Wanaka Airport, about 4pm.

Skydive Lake Wanaka director Jools Hall said the company had voluntarily suspended operations until tomorrow as staff tried to come to terms with the tragedy - the first in the firm's 17-year history.

New Zealand Parachute Industry Association chief executive Keith Gallaher said Arillotta was an experienced skydiver who had carried out almost 4000 jumps.

"That's a lot - a lot more than most people would do in their lifetime."

Hall said he was using his own equipment at the time of the accident.

Civil Aviation Authority spokesman Mike Richards said Skydive Lake Wanaka and Arillotta were certificated by the CAA, under the new Part 115 Adventure Aviation rule. The company was considered to be very professional, he said.

At least two safety investigators would spend two days in Wanaka interviewing people and liaising with the police and other local authorities.

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- The Southland Times

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