'Widely respected' pilot killed in crash

The man killed in a light plane crash near Lake Ōhau this morning was a "very experienced" and "widely respected" pilot.

A Fire and Emergency New Zealand spokesperson confirmed the fatality in the crash, which occurred near Twizel-Omarama Road (State Highway 8) at 10.46am.

Omarama Airfield chairman Clive Geddes said the pilot had flown out of the airfield on a solo flight this morning.

Geddes said the man was a very experienced glider pilot and microlight pilot.

"[He was] a guy who was very widely respected for his abilities and for his ability to help other people."

As well as working as a gliding instructor in New Zealand, the pilot had spent winters working as an instructor in the northern hemisphere.

Police this afternoon confirmed the man had been the sole occupant of the plane, and said he was found dead at the scene. 

Geddes said there had been "nothing exceptional" in the weather conditions at the airfield this morning.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is investigating.

A CAA spokesman said an investigation team was being sent to the site and was expected to arrive on Tuesday.

Investigators will perform a physical examination of the crash scene and interview first responders and other witnesses.

Members of the public who witnessed the crash were encouraged to contact CAA, the spokesman said.

A person earlier posted on social media that the plane had crashed into a field, but that had not been confirmed by authorities.

Although several locals had heard emergency services sirens earlier, none contacted by The New Zealand Herald knew that there had been a fatal plane crash in the town.

North Otago Federated Farmers president Jared Ross was aware there had been a crash but didn't know any details.

He knew of a couple of people who flew in the area and was contacting them.

 - additional reporting NZ Herald

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