Italian skydiver plunges to death in Wanaka

Police and ambulance staff at the scene of a skydiving fatality near Wanaka Airport yesterday afternoon. Photo by Mark Price.
Police and ambulance staff at the scene of a skydiving fatality near Wanaka Airport yesterday afternoon. Photo by Mark Price.

Police have named a 38-year-old Italian man who died in a skydiving accident while filming a tandem jump in Wanaka yesterday.

He was Antonino Arillotta.

No further details have been released.

Mr Arillotta was filming others on a paid tandem skydive near Wanaka Airport about 4pm, police and witnesses said.

He landed on the golf driving range of the Have a Shot sports entertainment complex, across State Highway 6 from the main entrance to the airport.

Police said it appeared the skydiver had difficulties with his main and reserve parachutes, and died when he hit the ground.

The incident was witnessed by several people who were offered support and counselling.

James LoughnanNo-one else was injured in the incident and the death has been referred to the coroner.

Witness James Loughnan, of Wanaka, told the Otago Daily Times he had been working on his plane across the highway from the driving range.

He heard the flutter of a parachute and looked up to see the skydiver at a height of about 70m, dropping to the ground.

The skydiver's white reserve chute was trailing behind him, but was not deployed enough to break his fall, Mr Loughnan said.

The bag for the reserve chute was found just a few metres away, indicating the chute had been deployed close to the ground, he said.

The main chute was found a few hundred metres away, across Mt Barker Rd.

Unlike other skydivers in the air at the time, the man was on his own without a tandem passenger, Mr Loughnan said.

He understood the man was a skydiving photographer.

Mr Loughnan said he knew from his own flying experience that when a southeast wind was blowing, as it was when the skydiver jumped, there could be rotational turbulence off hills near where he hit the ground.

mark.price@odt.co.nz