Kathy and Grant Simpson had flown over most of New Zealand together in a small yellow gyrocopter.
Yesterday, she watched in horror as that gyrocopter plummeted to the ground in the Far North, killing Grant and seriously injuring his passenger.
Grant, 50, is believed to have died instantly in the 11am crash. His passenger Shane Hunt, 35, suffered serious facial and shoulder injuries, a fractured leg and lacerations to his groin.
Kathy, who had married Grant in October last year, said she was about 500m away when the light aircraft crashed in a paddock in Awanui, north of Kaitaia.
"We were at the house standing on the veranda watching," she told the
Herald on Sunday
. "I saw him coming down but I didn't see the crash where they landed. They had gone around and were just coming back to land."
Shane's partner Petrina and Grant's sister Lorraine ran to the crash, telling Kathy to stay at the house.
"It was like a horrible disaster movie," Petrina said. "I got to Shane and he was awake. I was just with him and helping him.
"I looked at Grant and I knew it was not very good. He was dead by the time we got there."
Clips on YouTube show Grant doing tricks and flying upside down in the 4.3m gyrocopter, which had an 1800cc engine and a maximum speed of 152km/h.
Gyrocopter trainer Lloyd Heslop said such aircraft were stable in the air and, mechanically, had few problems.
In situations in which the gyrocopter lost engine power, the rotor allowed a pilot to descend slowly to the ground, he said.
The aircraft were inspected every 25 hours of flying and had to be checked and issued a permit each year, Heslop said.
Petrina had no idea what had gone wrong but had no safety concerns when she had previously flown with Grant.
"This is a horrible accident that has happened. Grant was a very, very good person.
"He was extremely lovely and he was passionate about flying and was just doing what he loved," she said.
Shane, a builder, was flown to Whangarei Hospital where Petrina said he was expected to have surgery.
Grant had two children - John, 17, and Emma, 20.
He and Kathy, who are from Taumarunui, had been visiting Lorraine in Awanui and his parents in Kaitaia.
"We hadn't had the gyro for long, just over two years. He used to love taking people on flights," said Kathy.
"He was a very loving, caring person. He was a lovely person who was willing to help everybody."
Grant and Kathy had flown around the South Island in the gyrocopter, built by his friend Neil Hintz about 10 years ago.
"Gyrocopters were his life," Hintz said. "Flying them, building them.
"I'm stunned that it is Grant and that it has happened. He was a very experienced pilot and the craft are very safe. I can't understand it."
Hintz said his friend was able to fly and show off the craft's abilities, "but he knew what he was doing".
The Civil Aviation Authority will investigate the crash.
The rules and regulations regarding gyrocopters are less stringent than for general aviation aircraft.