Queenstown's harbourmaster says the body of a missing skydiver may never surface naturally from Lake Wakatipu and police say any recovery will be complex.
Marty Black, district harbourmaster for more than 30 years, said the depth and coldness of the Kingston arm of the lake could be a factor in the recovery of the United States man, who was named by police yesterday as 27-year-old Tyler Nii, of California.
"If he's gone to the bottom, it may be that he never comes up," Black said.
"It's happened a couple of times. As it gets down deeper obviously the water gets colder. It's like a freezer and to put it bluntly the body's gases don't release.
"Hopefully, I'm wrong but that's deep water."
It will definitely hamper the efforts of the Wellington-based Police National Dive Squad.
The lake is believed to be about 250m deep there in parts and the squad cannot dive to those depths, a police media spokesperson yesterday said.
And Area Commander Otago Lakes Central Inspector Olaf Jensen confirmed the operation was "very complex", given the depth.
"Police are continuing to investigate options for locating and recovering the body," Jensen said.
"The Police National Dive Squad will arrive in Queenstown over the weekend to assess conditions and the viability of using sonar equipment to assist with locating and if practical recovering the body."
Nii was on holiday alone in New Zealand before the ill-fated skydive with NZONE. Sources told Otago Daily Times the main chute failed to properly deploy.
The tandem jumpmaster and the man landed in the lake. The jumpmaster, a veteran of more than 3000 tandem skydives, was recovered by local farming couple Philip and Kate Rive. Rive had been flown by helicopter down to his boat by Wanaka pilot James Ford, where Mrs Rive was waiting.
They pulled the jumpmaster from the water within 20 minutes before transferring him to a Queenstown Water Taxis boat.
"When we got there, they'd only just pulled the jumpmaster out of the water," head skipper Andre Cockburn said.
"He was obviously in complete and utter shock and he was well and truly hypothermic. He didn't know who he was or where he was."
Cockburn said they took him to the shore where an ambulance was already waiting.
"It worked out well in that respect. I'd say he's a pretty lucky lad.
"The parachute was still in the water but there was no sign of the other guy. I'm pretty sure he was gone by that stage. It was very choppy and windy."
The jumpmaster was taken to hospital and later discharged with only minor injuries.
Both men had manually operated life jackets, according to NZONE.
Neither police nor NZONE have given an indication how Nii and the jumpmaster were separated in the water. Jumpmasters and clients are strapped together. Governing body The New Zealand Parachute Industry Association did not respond to a request for information about the protocols surrounding emergency water landings by tandem parachutists.
Transport Accident Investigation Commission investigators are conducting an onshore investigation. A spokesman said investigators were not allowed by law to discuss with media what items had been recovered from the scene.
A NZONE spokesperson said no decision has been made about when the company might resume operations.