Colleagues of an American tourist Tyler Nii, who died in an ill-fated tandem skydiving fall into Lake Wakatipu this week, say they are "completely broken-hearted" by the tragedy.

The 27-year-old tennis coach from California, was named by police tonight, is presumed to have died after he and his instructor plunged into the lake's icy waters after getting into difficulty during the fall.

The instructor was plucked from the lake alive but Nii, who was travelling alone, hasn't been seen since.

In a post to their Facebook page today, his employer Player Capital shared the news.

"It is with the heaviest of hearts that we share this update about Coach Tyler Nii. We learned this afternoon that our dear friend and colleague, Coach Tyler Nii was killed in what appears to be a skydiving accident while on vacation in New Zealand.


"We have absolutely no words for a time like this, we are not just a tennis program, we care for each other as family. This tragic news has left us completely broken hearted ...
he was loved by all who knew him."

One friend from the club, Julie Clugage, posted in response about how excited Nii was to come to New Zealand.

"So devastating. Tyler was a fantastic coach and beautiful person. Always patient, smiling and kind.

"We played together on Saturday and talked about how excited he was for his trip."

A coach from the club, Michael Jessup, also paid tribute to Nii.

"Tyler's passing fills my heart with a deep sorrow. I first knew Tyler as a 10 year old and one of my first students 16 years ago. His nickname was "Tyni" (Ty Nii) because he was so small and skinny.

"He was always super energetic and happy running around with a smile on his face."

When Nii returned from university to start working for him he was tall and strong, Jessup said.

Tyler Nii. Photo / Supplied
Tyler Nii. Photo / Supplied

"When he returned from college to start working for me he was tall and strong. The "Tyni" nickname didn't quite fit anymore except that he was still his positive spunky self in a much bigger body!

"I had the pleasure of seeing Tyler grow from a young inexperienced coach that I would give a hard time to every week at the coaches meetings to a coach that I would trust to train my kids. His attitude, dedication, and most of all the heart he puts into each of his students is infectious. I am glad to have watched Tyler grow as an individual, but what I am most proud of is watching Tyler improve the lives of his students. I see students engage and connect on a deeper level making him more of a big brother/coach to many of his students."

Nii and his instructor were the last of nine pairs to jump from a commercial NZONE skydive plane on Wednesday afternoon.

An extensive search failed to find Nii who is presumed to have died.

"Police are providing support to Mr Nii's family and we join with the wider Queenstown community in extending our sympathies to them for their tragic loss," police said in a statement tonight.

Dear Player Capital Students and Families, It is with the heaviest of hearts that we share this update about Coach...

Posted by Player Capital Tennis on Thursday, 11 January 2018

"The Police National Dive Squad will arrive in Queenstown over the weekend to assess conditions, as well as the viability of using sonar equipment to assist with locating and recovering Mr Nii's body."

Earlier today police confirmed the dead man was an American citizen.

The young traveller was the passenger in the last of nine pairs to leave the plane on Wednesday. His pair crash-landed into the lake around 1.40pm.

The tandem master who survived the crash was plucked out of the water after a helicopter pilot who had been flying nearby heard a distress call over the radio about the incident and called for help.

Two of his colleagues jumped into a boat and came to the rescue of the tandem master in the water.

The Police National Dive Squad are due to arrive in Queenstown over the weekend to assess conditions and look at the viability of using sonar equipment to help locate the man.

Inspector Olaf Jensen, of Otago Lake Central Police, said the operation was complex, given the depth of the lake. The water is up to 250m deep where the pair entered the lake.

NZONE director Anthony Ritter spoke to media in Queenstown yesterday about the crash-landing, which happened during one of his company's skydiving operations.

Ritter dismissed as "purely speculative" a parachute malfunction as the potential cause of the crash-landing and said it was too early to determine what caused the fatal accident.

NZONE staff were assisting police and consular officials to try to contact the man's next of kin overseas.

Ritter extended the company's deepest sympathies to the man's family and friends.

"We're all devastated with yesterday's events."

NZONE had shut down its operations in Queenstown temporarily and was co-operating with the police and other investigators, including the Transport Accident Investigation Commission.

Another skydiving branch it operated at Wanaka was closed today out of respect but would continue tomorrow.

He said the company would also undertake its own internal review of what happened, adding that staff had been offered counselling.

It was the first fatal incident for NZONE in 27 years he said.

But it is the second accident in 12 months involving the company.

A tandem jump last January ended in a crash-landing with an instructor and trainee instructor suffering serious injuries.

And in 2015, a skydiving cameraman working for the company ended up in Dunedin Hospital with serious injuries after a jump went wrong.

NZONE Skydive business development manager Derek Melnick told the Otago Daily Times in September 2015 that a cameraman accompanying a group of customers on a skydive about 1pm suffered multiple injuries after a parachute ''malfunction'' caused him to land heavily.

He was skydiving solo and no customers were involved in the incident, Melnick said.

''He is one of our senior crew members, with a number of years' experience."

The company's operations were suspended for a period of time.