Last-minute decision costs life

DEIDRE MUSSEN AND WESTPORT NEWS
Last updated 05:00 01/02/2013

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Cole Ashby was supposed to spend Wednesday evening scuba-diving with friends.

But when he got a last-minute offer to go flying in a microlight around Cape Foulwind, it was an offer too good to refuse.

The decision cost the 25-year-old his life.

Yesterday, his grieving father, Pete Ashby, said his son went flying whenever someone offered him a ride.

Cole had pulled out of the scuba-diving trip at the last minute because of the offer of the flight, he said.

"He loved flying, he loved anything like that ... bikes, helicopters, aeroplanes, cars; he loves them all," he said.

Ashby said his son, a machine operator at the Stockton opencast coalmine, was a passenger in the aircraft that crashed at Carters Beach, near Westport, on Wednesday.

He said the two men were on a recreational flight, not a hunting trip as had been reported, when the crash happened.

His son was not learning to fly, he said.

He did not know whether Wednesday night's fog had contributed to the crash.

"The fog was really bad, but it could have been a mechanical malfunction. It could have been anything."

Someone heard the microlight fly past Cape Foulwind's Larsen St - near where the crashed microlight was found yesterday morning - at 9.10pm on Wednesday, he said.

The aircraft was apparently returning to Westport Airport.

"That was the last time anyone heard them in the microlight."

He said the pilot, named as Roger Murray Smith, 58, had many years' experience and was a good pilot.

"I don't think he's going to fly into the fog. Fog's something you keep well clear of in an aeroplane," he said.

Additional reporting by Joelle Dally.

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- The Press

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