The family of a pilot killed when his helicopter crashed and burned in North Canterbury yesterday have described him as a loving, kind and loyal man who loved flying, hunting and motorbikes.
David Stanley Jones, 48, of Woodend, died when his Robinson R22 helicopter crashed near the base of Mt Percy, inland from Domett, shortly before 9.30am.
Police said it was likely Mr Jones was killed instantly in the high-impact crash, which caused the helicopter to burst into flames on impact.
Mr Jones was the pilot and sole occupant of the helicopter, owned by his company HeliMax, which was being used for agricultural work at the time.
In a statement, his wife Jane and children Jonny, 19, William, 17, and Charlotte, 14, said the crash had been a huge shock and they were struggling to come to terms with the devastating loss.
"We all remember him as a loving, kind and loyal family man. Dave loved flying, and he had been flying for around 18 years."
The family said Mr Jones got his commercial pilot's licence 12 years ago, and his agricultural spraying licence in 2005, when he started HeliMax.
"He enjoyed all sorts of helicopter work - mustering, hunting, frost protection, agricultural spraying and fertiliser spreading.
"He loved hunting deer and chasing pigs and would often take members of the family out with him on hunting trips. Away from flying he loved to get out on his motorbike or go for a cruise in his boat. He loved his machines and his toys.
"But it was his family that meant the most to him - he loved his children and was a great father. We will miss him terribly."
Mrs Jones said her husband had started his business from nothing and had grown it into a success.
"He was one of the first operators to have his helicopter on a trailer. He'd pull up at a service station with the helicopter on the back and people would just stare.
"It was always funny to see this big guy getting into this little helicopter, but he loved the R22 and never wanted anything else.
"He had a lot of respect from other people in the industry - they all regarded him as very skilled and very good at what he did."
Eldest son Jonny said his father was "a good bugger to be around" and a great father. The chopper was "part of him" and he was always safety-conscious.
Son William said his dad was "a great guy" who was good with machinery and knew what he was doing, while daughter Charlotte said he always made them laugh and had a great sense of humour.
Mr Jones' father, Stan, and brothers Richard and Stan, said the close family, who had just lost Mr Jones' mother three months ago, was devastated.
"It has also brought back to us the loss of David's older brother, Chris, who died in a helicopter crash in 1987 near West Melton. The impact of this loss is awful."
Father Stan said his son was "a cheeky bugger" who loved his bikes and gadgets.
"David was passionate about his motorbikes, and used to race them around the farm at Mossburn and he also raced them competitively.
Brother Stan said was genuinely a very careful pilot. "That's why the crash is such a mystery."
Brother Richard said losing him was a tragedy for the family.
"It's not that long ago that I had three brothers, now I only have one."
Close friend Mike Brooklands said there was always a smile on David's face.
"It didn't matter what you were doing with him you just felt comfortable and at ease. He came alive when he was in the chopper."