There was ''no chance'' of escaping a tree that toppled on to a group of people, critically injuring two, at the Shotover Jet site in Queenstown yesterday.
The incident happened as wild winds battered the area. The MetService had issued a severe weather watch for the Southern Lakes area, saying westerly winds could rise to severe gales in exposed places.
Emergency services, including three helicopters, rushed to the Arthurs Point Rd site at 1pm, where five people were injured.
Two were critical, one was seriously injured, one was moderately injured, and one had minor injuries, a St John spokesman said.
One of the critically injured patients was flown by helicopter to Dunedin Hospital, while the other four patients were taken to Lakes District Hospital, he said.
Stuff later reported the group struck by the tree included two children believed to be under school age. One, a boy, was critically injured.
Their mother was initially treated locally but her condition deteriorated and she was flown to Dunedin, Stuff said.
Police have said the son and mother, both from Wellington, are now in serious by stable conditions at Dunedin Hospital.
MetService meteorologist Rob Kerr said wind gusts in the area reached 65kmh.
Some ''big jumps'' and ''much stronger winds'' were logged at more exposed recording stations.
Detective Senior Sergeant Malcolm Inglis, of Queenstown, said police were investigating.
The large, ageing willow tree gave up in the strong winds, he said, collapsing where a family was watching the Shotover boats.
''They've had no chance to get out of the way of the falling tree.''
''It was the wrong place, unfortunately, at the wrong time, and it was a tree that has been there for a long time.''
Inglis praised the response of Shotover Jet staff and bystanders.
''Obviously, there was a large, heavy tree lying on top of the family and to extract them was not easy.
''They did a great job of getting the tree up and off the family and administering medical assistance while they were waiting for ambulances to arrive.''
A Department of Conservation spokeswoman said the tree was on conservation land, in an area subject to a commercial lease.
''We are currently determining who is responsible for maintenance of trees in this location.''
Ngai Tahu Tourism, which owns Shotover Jet, was providing
support ''to all those affected and their whanau''.
''We are also supporting our team who were understandably shaken by today's events.''
Shotover Jet remained closed for the rest of the day.