Shock after Rotorua pilot death

By Kristin Macfarlane

A Rotorua pilot was  killed when the plane he was flying crashed into farmland in Waikite Valley.

The pilot,  in his late 20s, had  been in the air for only a short time before he crashed on Saturday afternoon.

Police  told The Daily Post the crash happened off Earthquake Flats Rd in Waikite Valley, south of Rotorua. They were alerted to the crash at 1.24pm.

The man worked for  Ballance Agri-Nutrients offshoot  Super Air,  a regional aerial fertiliser spraying company.

The man, who has not been named, was working on the Waikite Valley farm when the aircraft crashed.

Ballance chief executive Larry Bilodeau said his thoughts were with the family of the crash victim.

"We are deeply shocked and saddened by the accident which has resulted in the death of one of our employees.

"We extend our sympathies to the family and will do what we can to support them during this tragic time.''

Civil Aviation Authority inspectors arrived at the scene yesterday to start their investigations into the cause of the crash and  contact manager corporate communications Mike Richards said it was too early to say how long it would take.

"[They could] photograph and video everything in great detail.''

Mr Richards said the plane involved in the crash was a Fletcher 24 Turbine Engine kerosene, which was quite a powerful plane and owned by  Super Air.

He said the type of plane was commonly used in agricultural applications and the pilot was a Rotorua man aged about 27.

"He [the pilot] was going up to do crop dusting,'' Mr Richards said.

He  said the pilot was only a short time in the air before the plane "collided with terrain''.

He said there was one witness to the crash who would be spoken to as part of investigations.

"Our inspectors will look at the wreckage.''

Mr Richards said the pilot had been on a dual instructor lesson before going on a solo flight.

It was reported that Mr Richards said the pilot was new to flying.

The Daily Post was unable to get near the crash site on Earthquake Flats Rd and was turned away by police, who were looking after the site until Civil Aviation Authority staff arrived.

Earthquake Flats Rd is a no-exit dirt road off Corbett Rd and near the Waikite Valley Thermal Pools.

The long driveway to the site was marked with two orange cones at the start of it on Earthquake Flats Rd. There was an airstrip sign near the driveway.

Two fire appliances also attended the crash scene.

However, a Fire Service spokesman told The Daily Post they were only there on stand-by because of fuel leakage.


- Rotorua Daily Post

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