A close friend of a thrill-seeking Kiwi, who died in a high-speed extreme sports accident in Wanaka, says the New Zealand paragliding community is in shock over the freak smash.

Sean Kerridge, 40, originally from Dargaville in Northland, was killed when his speedflying wing, designed for flying close to the ground, crashed at Treble Cone shortly after midday on Friday. Speedflying is a combination of paragliding, hang gliding and base jumping.

Other flyers in the area raised the alarm after seeing a man lying motionless on the ground.

"Skydivers and base jumpers are numb about this because Sean was an experienced pilot who was also a meticulous and cautious person," the victim's mate and fellow speedflyer, Mal Haskins, said. "It is hard to take in that this has happened.


"Sean had been speedflying for about two years and was widely respected and liked. He was always fun to hang out with and he was truly grabbed by the sport. He will be sorely missed."

Haskins, a Wanaka-based paragliding pilot, said Kerridge had lived in Australia for about 15 years. He had worked in the mining industry in Queensland but his great passion was speedflying.

"Sean spent a lot of time coming back and forward to Wanaka in the past few years from Australia because he loved the place and loved to fly here," he said. "He had talked about moving to the town to live permanently at some stage. It is very sad."

Wanaka police search and rescue co-ordinator Sergeant Aaron Nicholson said Kerridge had launched from Pub Corner on the Treble Cone skifield road, a popular area for canopy flying. The victim had suffered "significant impact injuries" in the crash, Nicholson added.

In speedflying, pilots can reach speeds of up to 145km/h, just 30cm above the ground.

Witnesses said local paragliding pilots were quickly on the scene but couldn't save Kerridge.

"They administered CPR for about 45 minutes before a doctor arrived and pronounced him dead," Haskins said.