Sky diving accident investigated

Wanaka police yesterday named the 38-year-old man who died in a skydiving accident in Wanaka on Thursday.

Antonino Arillotta was a contractor working for Sky Dive Lake Wanaka Ltd, which operates from the Wanaka Airport, opposite the Have a Shot golf driving range where Mr Arillotta died on hitting the ground.

Company directors Jools and Dave Hall declined to discuss the accident while investigations into the cause were continuing.

However, Mrs Hall said Mr Arillotta was known as "Nino" and all his friends in New Zealand were fellow skydivers.

"We're all still quite gutted, to be honest."

Civil Aviation Authority corporate communications manager Mike Richards said yesterday Skydive Lake Wanaka had voluntarily suspended its operations.

"This is not required by the CAA. However, it is a respectful action and also allows staff and locals time to come to terms with what has happened."

He described Skydive Lake Wanaka as a "very professional company" certificated by the CAA under the new Part 115 Adventure Aviation Rule. The rule was introduced last November to strengthen safeguards governing adventure aviation.

Mr Richards said Thursday's accident was the first adventure aviation fatality in New Zealand since the new rule came into effect.

At least two CAA safety investigators would spend two days in Wanaka conducting interviews, and liaising with police and local authorities.

"The investigators will then bring all gear associated with the accident back to Wellington for detailed examination and testing," Mr Richards said.

"This will include all parachute gear and related equipment and the camera used by Mr Arillotta."

Wanaka Senior Constable Bruce McLean said Mr Arillotta had been working in Wanaka for the last two months and had been in the country for a short time before that.

The Otago Daily Times understands Mr Arillotta was from Reggio Calabria, a city at the southern tip of Italy.

His body has been taken to Dunedin for a postmortem.

Police have said Mr Arillotta was filming other tandem skydivers about 4pm on Thursday when he appeared to have difficulties with his main and reserve parachutes.

Mr Arillotta's main chute was found some distance away and a witness told the ODT Mr Arillotta's reserve parachute had been deployed but was trailing behind him and did not break his fall.

Police said the incident was witnessed by several people who were offered support and counselling.


Parachuting accidents

• October 2011: A 34-year-old man sustained spinal injuries when his parachute collapsed in a paragliding incident near Whakamaru, 40km northwest of Taupo.
• June 2010: Gary Cullen (51), of Ruakaka in Northland, was killed in Norway when a rogue gust of wind caught his inflated parachute during a "ground launching" and he was dragged down a hill.
• October 2008: Jo Snodin (27) an experienced skydiving videographer, failed to slow down her parachute as she came in to land at Mercer Airport, near Auckland. She sustained moderate injuries to her leg and pelvis as she hit the ground.
• February 2008: Simon Hepple (32) died after he lost air in his parachute during a landing at Mercer Airport.
• December 2001: A 46-year-old skydiver died after crashing while completing a manoeuvre close to landing at an airfield near Hastings.

Source: The New Zealand Herald


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