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About 25 police, search and rescue and medical personnel were called out along with a rescue helicopter from Wanaka when another pilot in the area radioed in the crash about 6.30pm.
Omarama is staging the national club championships and Omarama Cup this week, but the dead pilot, a man who was the sole occupant of the glider, was not competing in the events, Sergeant Tony Woodbridge, of Oamaru, said last night.
The pilot had taken off from Omarama, but details of where he was from or the type of glider he was flying would not be released until next of kin had been notified, Sgt Woodbridge said.
The crash occurred in the Snowy Tops area on Ribbonwood Station, about 10.5km northwest of Omarama.
Police from Twizel, Kurow and Omarama and members of Omarama search and rescue along with a cliff-face rescue team and trauma doctor were called out to assist with the crash.
About six people, including the doctor, were flown in and arrived at the crash site about 7.30pm, but found the pilot was dead.
His body was flown back to Omarama last night and taken to Oamaru.
The crash has been referred to the Civil Aviation Authority, which will investigate today.
Gliding New Zealand president Nigel Davy confirmed the pilot was not an Omarama resident, but did not say where he was from.
Conditions were good for gliding with light winds and clear skies. There was only minor turbulence.
It was the first major accident for this gliding season in New Zealand.
Omarama is world-renowned as a premier gliding area.
Otago has been the location of several fatal gliding accidents including that of Owen James Truelove (69), of Cornwall, and his son James Christopher Scott Truelove (37), of Queenstown, who crashed near Lake Hawea in 2006; Greg Brosnan (44), of Wanaka, who died near Omarama in 2005; and Norman Howard Gray (53), of Colorado, who died in the Ohau range in 2002.
Police were still investigating the crash last night.