An experienced helicopter pilot who died after hitting a power line in Marlborough last week is being described as "a big-hearted man" with a passion for flying.

Ian John Simcox crashed his Robinson 44 helicopter into the sea at French Pass about 5.20pm on Friday.

The 65-year-old co-director of Simcox Construction in Blenheim, which he ran with his wife Margaret, had been flying helicopters for nine years.

Witnesses reported seeing the chopper hit a power line running between D'Urville Island and the mainland.

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Simcox Construction managing director Antony Clark, speaking today on behalf of Mr Simcox's wife and two daughters, said the news had come as a "great shock" to everyone who knew him and his flying abilities.

"He was a very conscientious pilot, very thorough and methodical in his flight preparation."

Mr Clark said the family was still coming to grips with the tragedy and was "blown away" by the level of support they were receiving from the community.

"Margaret and the girls - they've got plenty of character and are being very strong.

"After such a tragic event, good people come to the fore. We're really lucky to have such good people around us."

Mr Clark said his friend and work colleague was a humble, quiet man and "a big softy", who enjoyed taking his friends and family out on flights.

"He was often taking people for a ride - friends and Margaret would go out for a fly. It was a great way of getting around and enjoying his time."

Police dive squad members recovered Mr Simcox's body from the crash scene on Saturday.

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Mr Clark said tentative arrangements were being made for a funeral later this week, and details would be confirmed in the next few days.

He believed it would be a large funeral, judging by the number of people who had already reached out to show their support.

"It's only now you realise all the people he was involved with. He cared about people and has done a lot for people.

"He was a loving grandfather, father, husband and great friend."

The Civil Aviation Authority has opened an investigation into the accident and is gathering information from a number of sources.

Communications manager Mike Richards said in a statement that Mr Simcox's helicopter was now available for safety investigators to look at if required.

The authority would be following up with the other agencies, including police, to see what further information they could obtain.

"This may include accessing flight records, mechanical reports and aircraft history," he said.

The coroner is also investigating.