Pair in crashed plane 'lucky to be alive'

Two people on board a light aircraft which crashed near Queenstown during the weekend were "lucky to be alive", a New Zealand Rescue Co-ordination Centre spokesman says.

James Sygrove told the Otago Daily Times last night the centre detected a beacon activation at 12.10pm on Saturday.

A Heliworks helicopter found the shaken but uninjured duo 10 minutes later.

The aeroplane, understood to be a 1950s Piper Cub trainer, had taken off from Queenstown and flown to the Branches High Country Station, about 30km up the Shotover River.

It is understood the aeroplane was owned by a Canterbury resident and, until recently, had been stored in the Wakatipu Aero Club's hangar.

"There were two people on board.

They were practising landings and take-offs [on the air strip]," Mr Sygrove said.

"They had just taken off and [the aeroplane] came down hard as they were still accelerating.

"They went through a fence and hit a bush, or a rock, or the fence and set off their beacon."

Mr Sygrove said the helicopter found the pair, understood to be a man and woman, and "gave them a lift back to Queenstown".

The aeroplane was described as "a write-off".

"The pilot said they were lucky to be alive."

The ODT understands one of the occupants was Air Milford owner Hank Sproull.

When contacted last night, Mr Sproull declined to comment.

Wakatipu Aero Club spokesman Ian Webb said he understood the club had been notified by the NZRCC when the beacon activation was detected, but the club "didn't have anything to do with the aircraft as of a week ago".

"We're obviously grateful no-one was seriously hurt," Mr Webb said.

Sergeant Keith Newell, of Queenstown, said police were notified of the incident, but were not required to attend.

St John's Wakatipu ambulance team manager, Alana Reid, said ambulance officers were also not required.


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