Pilot, passenger injured in light plane crash

A freak gust of wind may have caused the crash of a small plane on Great Barrier Island in the Hauraki Gulf this afternoon, injuring two people.

The Piper Cherokee Six, flown by Great Barrier Airlines, crashed into a swamp at 1.10pm, moments after it took off from the airfield at Claris with a full load of a pilot and five passengers.

One of the passengers was a pilot for the airline and not involved in flying the aircraft.

Rescuers waded in water up to their waists to get to the wrecked plane to help the occupants to safety.

One rescuer, who did not want to be identified, said that the aircraft may have been caught by a strong gust of wind moments after it became airborne.

The gust flipped it sideways, he said.

"It caught one wing...it screwed around and went down," he said.

"From accounts of the people we brought out...the plane just suddenly flipped on its side with a wind gust."

Most of the occupants walked out of the swamp although they were all in shock.

The two injured were treated by local nurses and a doctor, before being airlifted by the Westpac rescue helicopter to Auckland Hospital. Their injuries were not life threatening.

After getting the pilot and passengers off the aircraft, the rescuers went back for their luggage and retrieved it all but for a couple of small bags they could not reach.

Great Barrier Airlines deputy operations manager Mike McGuire would not comment on the possible cause of the crash, but said the engine was running when the aircraft came down about a kilometre from the end of the runway.

He said the passengers were badly shaken and the injured passenger and pilot were flown off as a precaution to get them the best treatment.

Mr McGuire said the airline had a good record, although in July a three-engined Trislander made an emergency landing shortly after taking off from Claris Airport with a pilot and 10 passengers on board.

The rear-propeller of one broke apart but the aircraft made a safe landing back at Claris and no one was hurt.

Mr McGuire said the airline staff's thoughts were with the people involved.

"The fact that there hasn't been significant injury or loss of life is definitely a good thing and a sigh of relief," he said.

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