The boss of a mountain rescuer who died while paragliding in Queenstown has spoken out to say he was a highly experienced flyer.

Ben Letham, 26, lost control and landed on a building at Queenstown Primary School about 10.10am yesterday as vendors were setting up for the Night Noodle Market.

A person at the scene said the pilot had gone "head over heels" rather than spinning.

GForce Paragliding co-director Gavin Taylor said Letham had done thousands of flights at the site, both commercially and recreationally.


"But on this day he was flying with his own equipment using a single person wing.

"Our whole team is absolutely devastated by his death. He was a really nice guy, a talented pilot, and we're stunned to lose one of the youngest members of our team with his whole life ahead of him.

"We've lost a close colleague and friend who will be very sadly missed. Our thoughts and deepest sympathies go out to his partner, friends and family."

Taylor said Letham had been flying for approximately six years and had been a fulltime pilot with the company for three years. They have temporarily suspended operations as a mark of respect.

Letham, originally from Scotland, was on a solo recreational flight.

Taylor said conditions at the time of the incident had been calm, and could not comment on what may have gone wrong.

Chris Prudden, from Queenstown Alpine Cliff Rescue, said Letham was a valued and loved member of the team.

He said he understood another member of the rescue team had been flying with Letham yesterday but both were on solo flights.

"Ben was a great guy and he will be very sorely missed," Prudden told the Herald on Sunday. "He was renowned for his flying expertise and he was also a very capable climber."

In November 2012 Letham made the news when he was freed from a tree about 60 metres above the ground when he crashed after taking off from the Queenstown gondola.

Taylor said GForce Paragliding is co-operating closely with authorities to investigate the death.

Queenstown Primary School principal Fiona Cavanagh said the school was "shocked and saddened" to learn of the death on the school grounds.