The tandem skydivers who crashed into Lake Wakatipu where the passenger is presumed to have drowned were the last of nine pairs to leave the plane yesterday.

NZONE director Anthony Ritter dismissed a parachute malfunction as the potential cause of the crash-landing into the lake as "purely speculative" and said it was too early to determine the cause of the fatal accident.

Ritter was addressing media in Queenstown this afternoon as the search continues to recover the body of the passenger, a foreign national in his 20s, who has not been seen since the crash-landing about 1.42pm yesterday.

He said the young man had been travelling alone and was on holiday.


NZONE staff were assisting police and consular officials to try to contact the man's next of kin overseas.

Ritter extended the company's deepest sympathies to the man's family and friends.

"We're all devastated with yesterday's events."

A GoPro camera that had been strapped to the tandem master's wrist was salvaged and given to police. Ritter had not seen the footage.

He said all tandem skydivers wore a life jacket that needed to be inflated for use but it was not yet known if the passenger was able to inflate his before landing in the lake near Jack's Point.

Ritter confirmed the tandem master who survived the crash did so because of a Good Samaritan who had been flying his helicopter nearby and witnessed the incident.

"A special note of thanks to the person who rescued our tandem master from the water. As I understand it he was flying overhead in his helicopter.

"He saw what happened. He managed to land near his home, jump in a boat and race out and save our tandem master's life."

The survivor was pulled from the water within 20 minutes while a search involving the police, Coastguard, Land Search and Rescue and other concerned witnesses continued.

Ritter said he met with the instructor, who has done more than 3000 tandem jumps, earlier today before the man went to a yoga session.

"The tandem master was released from hospital last night. Given the nature of the incident, he's in remarkably good spirits. He's doing very well and only has a few minor bruises."

Ritter said NZONE had shut down its operations in Queenstown temporarily and was co-operating with the police and other investigators, including the Transport Accident Investigation Commission.

Another skydiving branch it operated at Wanaka was closed today out of respect but would continue tomorrow.

He said the company would also undertake its own internal review of what happened, adding that staff had been offered counselling.

It was the first fatal incident for NZONE in 27 years he said.

But it is the second accident in 12 months involving NZONE after a tandem jump last January ended in a crash-landing with an instructor and trainee instructor suffering serious injuries.

And the ABC in Australia reported that NZONE's parent company Experience Co, which runs Skydive Mission Beach in Far North Queensland, was involved in a fatal crash last year.

In that incident three months ago two instructors, Peter Dawson and Toby Turner, and a client, mother-of-eight Kerri Pike, died in what is believed to have been a mid-air collision.

Ritter said skydiving was a risky activity but NZONE did everything it could to mitigate those risks.

"On behalf of the company, I would like to pass on my deepest sympathies to the family of the missing man. We're devastated by the incident.

"Our staff would like to acknowledge the heartfelt messages of support that they received from all over New Zealand. The close-knit community of Queenstown has rallied behind them during this difficult time."

The latest evaluation on NZONE Skydive was carried out by Qualmark in August 2017 and the most recent CAA audit was carried out in August 2016, which resulted in no restrictions to operations.

At least 10 TAIC investigators are working to piece together the cause of the skydiving crash-landing.

TAIC investigator in charge Barry Stevenson told media earlier he was one of two investigators on the ground and another eight were trying to determine the cause.

Stevenson said it was an evidence-gathering investigation at this stage and he had not yet interviewed the tandem master, who has not yet been named.

He said it was "far too early to determine" the cause but investigators would look at the parachute, compliance with regulation, certification, training and the people involved as well as weather conditions - it was a windy day in Queenstown yesterday.

Stevenson said following the devastating 2012 Carterton hot-air balloon crash that killed all 11 passengers and pilot when it collided with power lines and caught fire, safety standards were recently newly improved.

New Zealand Parachute Industry Association chief executive Jenn Lowe said skydiving in New Zealand had an excellent safety record.

"We are among the most heavily regulated skydiving environments in the world, ensuring all skydiving operations have robust safety processes and procedures which are audited and approved by the Civil Aviation Authority."

Lowe said the association would work closely with authorities and NZONE management to find out what happened, why and what can be done to prevent it happening again.

"In the meantime, our top priority is to support the people directly involved and the wider skydiving community, all of whom are, understandably, deeply distraught by this incident."