Son's moving tribute to 'hero' crash pilot

By Matthew Backhouse, Otago Daily Times

The pilot was taking two American tourists on a Lord of the Rings scenic flight when the plane crashed.  Photo / Southern District Police
The pilot was taking two American tourists on a Lord of the Rings scenic flight when the plane crashed. Photo / Southern District Police

The son of a pilot killed in a light plane crash yesterday has paid tribute to his "hero" father's actions in saving his two passenger's lives.

Two American tourists were injured and the pilot died when a Glenorchy Air plane crashed during a Lord of the Rings scenic flight just north of Poolburn Reservoir.

Police confirmed today that the pilot was Ray Crow, 56, of Queenstown.

Read more: Tourists stable after crash tragedy

His son Dan posted a moving tribute to his father on his Facebook page.

Dan Crow said his father would always be a hero.

"R.I.P to my dad died saving his passengers died doing what he loved most flying his plane," he wrote.

Dan said his father was the only person he could trust 100 per cent, describing him as "the most loyal hard working strongest willed person I have ever met or come across in my life".

Dan said his father flew his plane every day. Ray Crow knew it was a dangerous job, and a number of workmates had lost their lives flying in Queenstown in recent years.

His son said he "always new the risk u where taking but also new how much u loved what u did and that makes me happy,that's why I told u I love u everyday before u went out flying.

"RIP to my loving father u went out doing what u loved most an saved some people's lives loosing yours your a hero and always have been and always will be my hero love u dad xox."

The two tourists, understood to be a man and woman in their 30s, were now in a stable condition in a Dunedin Hospital orthopaedic ward, a hospital spokeswoman said.

An emergency beacon on the Glenorchy Air Piper Cherokee was activated about 3.40pm yesterday and emergency services sent to the scene, 20km east of Alexandra.

The passengers were flown by the Otago Regional Rescue Helicopter to Dunedin Hospital in a serious condition.

Investigations were set to resume at the crash site this morning, with investigators from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) expected to examine the scene.

Conditions were fine at the time of the crash, police said last night.

Glenorchy Air chief pilot Robert Rutherford confirmed the flight was on a Lord of the Rings tour at the time of the crash and said "we are waiting to get all the information before we talk to the media".

"We still don't know what happened ... we know there are some injuries but we are still waiting to hear the final details," he said.

"As you can imagine, we are under a huge amount of stress."

The company's Lord of the Rings tour - which costs $380 a passenger - includes a visit to the reservoir, which was depicted as "Rohan country" in the popular trilogy.

"This flight includes approximately two hours on the ground at Poolburn, there is a walk from the landing strip to view the scenery and have a close look at the sites of the filming. Your pilot will tell you all about the making of the Trilogy as you go," the company's website says.

The website says Glenorchy Air is a family-owned business operating out of Queenstown Airport, and "we have a 100% safety record".

"No one flying with us since we started our business 21 years ago has been injured."

A Piper Cherokee with the same registration was steered off the side of the grass airstrip to avoid overrunning the runway at Elfin Bay, Lake Wakatipu, on April 5, 2007.

The pilot and two passengers were uninjured when the aircraft received moderate damage after striking a fence, prompting a TAIC investigation.

- APNZ

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