One of the men killed in the Feilding plane crash had returned to New Zealand for the wedding of a friend's daughter.

Queensland chiropractor Brett Ireland, 50, and Palmerston North doctor Ralph Saxe, 51, died when the small plane they were in crashed in Timona Park, about 35 minutes after taking off from the Taonui Aerodrome near Feilding yesterday.

In a statement today, Dr Ireland's family said they were "shattered by this unforseen tragedy".

Dr Ireland had previously lived in Manawatu but had moved his family to Southport, on Australia's Gold Coast, in 2002.


He and his wife Janine had returned to Palmerston North for the wedding of a friend's daughter.

His family said he was a charismatic person who touched the lives of many.

"He was genuine and caring towards his family, friends and patients. He was quick-witted and his dry sense of humour was well known by all. These attributes made him loved by everyone who knew him."

Dr Ireland had worked as an engineer before studying in the United States to become a chiropractor.

A founding member of the New Zealand College of Chiropractic, he ran successful clinics in Palmerston North and Fielding.

After 18 years in the business in New Zealand, Dr Ireland sold both his clinics and moved to the Gold Coast with his wife and three children.

On the website of his new clinic, the Gold Coast Chiropractic Centre, Dr Ireland said the family had decided they wanted to live "on the beautiful Gold Coast".

"Living here in Southport allows me the ability to enjoy an outdoor lifestyle almost 12 months of the year. I run, play tennis with the kids, play golf and enjoy fishing and boating."


A strong believer in the power of his work, Dr Ireland said 30 years of chiropractic treatment had cured his own hayfever.

"My passion in practice is to help people take control of their own health," he said on his practice's website.

His family today described him as a visionary and a leader in chiropractic care.

"The chiropractic community in New Zealand and Australia are reeling from this tragic loss."

His companion in the plane, Dr Saxe, was a well-known Manawatu doctor who had worked extensively in South Africa and New Zealand.

He was managing director at the Palms Medical Centre in Palmerston North, where his wife, Joanne, is also a practice manager.

On his curriculum vitae he said in 2002 he was elected onto the MidCentral District Health Board, where he was a member for two years.

Dr Saxe had also worked as a GP and a pharmaceutical company manager in South Africa in the 1990s.

Between 1992 and 1996 he worked as a GP in Melkbrosstrand, 35km north of Cape Town.

In his spare time he was a keen flyer, and had his private pilot's licence.

Dr Saxe was part of the Feilding Aero Club, the Manawatu Aero Club and the Rifle, Rod and Gun Club in Palmerston North.

On his curriculum vitae, he listed flying, shooting and trout fishing as some of his interests.

Dr Saxe and Dr Ireland were in an Aerostar Yak 52TW, co-owned by Dr Saxe, when they crashed in the Feilding park about 10.45am yesterday.

Witnesses said the plane was barely recognisable after the crash, the explosion leaving it a mangled wreckage.

Police removed the bodies from the scene last night.

A police disaster victim identification team completed their work today and handed the scene over to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), which is investigating the cause of the crash.

Police this afternoon said the scene examination was almost complete and the wreckage was expected to be removed tomorrow.

The wreckage would be transported to secure storage where the rest of the CAA investigation would be completed.

Police would then meet with the Manawatu District Council to organise an environmental clean-up of the crash site.

CAA lead safety investigator Al Moselen said he and colleague Steve Walker were examining the site.

"It has been suggested that the Yak 52 was carrying out aerobatics prior to the accident but this has not been confirmed," Mr Moselen said.