Queenstown pilot killed in chopper crash named

Julian Kramer, also known as Julianne Kramer. Photo ODT Files
Julian Kramer, also known as Julianne Kramer. Photo ODT Files
The Queenstown pilot killed when their helicopter "dropped out of the sky" last night was the chief flying instructor at Wakatipu Aero Club.

The pilot was Julian Dean Kramer (52), also known as Julianne Kramer, police said.

Sergeant Aaron Nicholson, the Wanaka Police SAR Coordinator, said the body had been recovered from the crash site on the Criffel Range about 8.30am today.

Sgt Nicholson was with the pilot's parents in Queenstown this morning.  "Obviously with the trauma of a sudden incident and being unexpected and no opportunity to say goodbye - all those things will weigh heavily".

Kramer was the only person on board the helicopter when it "just dropped out of the sky" about 8.30pm, Civil Aviation Authority corporate communications manager Mike Richards said.  

The Robinson R22 helicopter belonged to a local helicopter company, Mr Richards said.

The crash scene.
The crash scene.
Police said the pilot and a friend had earlier flown from Queenstown to Wanaka Airport to pick up another light aircraft and then both returned to Queenstown via the Cardrona Valley, one flying the aircraft the other flying the R22 Helicopter.

The friend arrived in Queenstown unaware of any incident involving the R22 Helicopter.

Several witnesses to the crash alerted emergency services. Ambulance, police and fire personnel, along with Land Search and Rescue (LandSAR) volunteers rushed to the scene and established a base in a paddock at Spotburn Station in Cardrona Valley Rd, near the crash site.

The owner of the farm where the helicopter crashed, Ben Gordon, who took emergency services to the scene, said the helicopter crashed about 600m up the Criffel Range as it was heading back to Queenstown from Wanaka.

He learned of the accident after Hamish Mackay, who farms on a neighbouring property, saw the crash while he was out on his lawn.

"Apparently, it was flying along the Pisa Range when it just dropped out of the sky," Mr Gordon said.

Conditions were "perfect".

"For some reason, the rotors have stopped and it has just fallen out of the sky, basically. It has hit the ground really hard and left quite an impact ..."

The helicopter was "in bits" and almost unrecognisable.

Senior Constable Nigel Buckingham, of Wanaka, said one witness reported seeing the rotor stop, before the machine "dropped out of the sky" and made a "very hard landing" on the side of the hill.

Two helicopters - one from Wanaka's Aspiring Helicopters and the Otago Regional Rescue Helicopter from Dunedin - with a medic, fire officers and LandSAR volunteers on board, hovered over the crash site for about an hour, using spotlights to search the area, Mr Richards said.

CAA will begin an on-site investigation this morning.