Crash pilot named

JOELLE DALLY
Last updated 17:24 19/01/2014
plane crash
DANIEL TOBIN/FairfaxNZ

FATAL CRASH: the scene in Springfield, Canterbury.

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A plane that crashed and killed its pilot hit trees and burst into flames, police say. The crash happened on private property on Springfield Rd, about 63 kilometres west of Christchurch, at 12.05pm today.

St John ambulance staff attended but the pilot, Martin Lowen, 55, of Christchurch, was dead at the scene.

There were no other passengers on board. Police said the aircraft had been towing a glider and had taken off from the nearby Canterbury Gliding Club airfield.

The gilder cut away, and the aircraft turned, hit trees and burst into flames, police said. People at the airfield witnessed the crash, and called emergency services before rushing to the scene.

The plane was completely destroyed in fire, which was put out by fire crews. The glider returned to the airfield safely.

Police are contacting the man's relatives.

Canterbury Gliding Club deputy chief flying instructor Warwick Bethwaite said Lowen was an experienced pilot. "He's been in aviation 20 plus years. He's spent a lot of hours in that particular plane," he said. It was "complete conjecture" what went wrong. His thoughts were with Lowen's family, he said.

About five men from the club ran straight across after seeing the crash. Others alerted emergency services. 

"It would have been terrible, shocking. It will upset people for a long time." 

"He was part of a very close-knit club. We're all going to miss him terribly." 

Lowen was married with children, he said.

The plane, a PA28236 Dakota aircraft, had been leased by the club for many years. 

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