Friend saw fatal glider crash

A Hororata farmer and keen recreational gliding pilot has been named as the man killed when his glider crashed near Omarama on Wednesday.

Michael John "Joe" McKellow (60) was flying his fixed-wing glider when it appeared to lose height rapidly before crashing into a gentle slope on the western side of Snowy Top mountain on Ribbonwood Station about 6.20pm on Wednesday, Acting Inspector Jason McCoy, of Oamaru, said yesterday.

Mr McKellow was the sole occupant of the glider and was on a private flight with a friend, who was flying another glider in the same locality.

The friend saw the crash and notified emergency services, he said.

Mr McKellow was a member of the Canterbury Gliding Club, based at Hororata. Members of the club are flying out of Omarama until next week.

Club president Kevin Bethwaite said Mr McKellow was "a strong personal friend". The two often flew together and had been on gliding trips, including to Australia.

Mr Bethwaite said Mr McKellow did not often fly in competitions but was a recreational pilot who enjoyed gliding. He enjoyed "just flying for two or three or four or five hours on a nice day - as far as food and water allows".

He was an experienced and competent pilot who had flown internationally.

Mr McKellow, a father of three adult sons, lived with his partner at Hororata.

Two Civil Aviation Authority safety investigators landed at the crash site yesterday to start investigating the crash. They also spoke to witnesses.

Mr McKellow, who had launched from the Omarama airfield, was not taking part in the competitions being staged in the area.

Emergency services from Omarama and Twizel and the Omarama and Wanaka Search and Rescue crews were called out when the crash was reported on Wednesday. A team of rescuers, including a trauma doctor, was flown by rescue helicopter from Wanaka to the crash site about 10.5km northwest of Omarama. When they arrived about 7.30pm, they found the pilot was dead.

His body was flown by helicopter to Omarama, before being taken to Oamaru.

Conditions on Wednesday were good for gliding, with light winds, a clear sky and little turbulence.