Tari Sinclair stood frozen in horror as he watched a paraglider he knew plummet from the sky in a fatal crash on Mauao on Friday.
The Tauranga man had been climbing to the summit in what was his 144th climb and joined two couples watching the paraglider move from side to side while in the air. Police are yet to release the name of the man.
Sinclair recognised the paraglider. He was a man Sinclair had gotten to know through his many climbs because he was often up there too.
"I'm always talking to him up there. I've always loved seeing him," Sinclair said.
"He would always ask me 'how many climbs now?'."
Sinclair climbs Mauao every day as part of a personal mission to pull himself out of depression and better his life. Every second day he climbs twice and usually goes up the steps on the second climb "but for some reason I went up the 4WD track last night".
Sinclair saw the paraglider, who was being filmed by the two girls and their partners.
"He was going like you do normally then he just dropped, like how an elevator just goes down. I thought 'oh my God,', he might have gone in the water'."
Sinclair, who has strong fear of heights and bad knees, stood frozen as he digested what he had just seen. The two men Sinclair was with scrambled down to the paraglider.
"It's amazing how those two guys got down there and did CPR," he said.
"It felt like an eternity."
Sinclair said he was told there had been a sudden drop in wind and the paraglider had not survived the crash.
"I just can't believe what I saw. Every time I see [him] up there I always see him land.
"I just feel so sorry for his lovely partner. I'd like to give her a hug somehow."
Sinclair said it was only just the other week he and the paraglider were talking at the fatal paraglider crash which killed recently-engaged 28-year-old Josh Tingey in February, "and now he's gone, in the same way".
A coroner later found Tingey had either misjudged his own ability, or a sudden gust put him off course.
A Bay of Plenty Hang Gliding and Paragliding Club spokesperson confirmed the paraglider was a member of the club.
The spokesperson believed the man was flying alone, which is not unusual.
According to a Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service representative, the surf club provided 4WD vehicles that transported police and fire service staff up to the crash site.