Missing skydiver from the US

Planes, boats and jet skis search for the missing skydiver in Lake Wakatipu yesterday. Photo:...
Planes, boats and jet skis search for the missing skydiver in Lake Wakatipu yesterday. Photo: Mandy Cooper
A skydiver believed to have died in Queenstown's Lake Wakatipu was a United States citizen, but police have not yet released his name. 

The man was in his 20s and on holiday on his own when a tandem skydive with Queenstown company NZONE went wrong. He and his instructor plunged into the lake near Jacks Pt on Wednesday afternoon.

The instructor was rescued within 20 minutes with only minor injuries, but the American has not been found despite an extensive search of the crash site, whch is about 250m deep where the pair went in.

In a statement late this morning, Area Commander Otago Lakes Central Inspector Olaf Jensen said: "Police are continuing to investigate options for locating and recovering the body of the missing skydiver.

"The Police National Dive Squad will arrive in Queenstown over the weekend to assess conditions and the viability of using sonar equipment to assist with  locating and if practical recovering the body.

"The operation is a very complex one given the depth of Lake Wakatipu."

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission investigators are conducting an on-shore investigation.

Lead investigator Barry Stephenson said he and a colleague would spend the next few days interviewing witnesses and NZONE staff, and securing physical evidence.

That evidence would include video footage from a camera on the instructor's wrist.

A NZONE spokesperson said no decision has been made about when the company might resume operations.

Missing skydiver wearing life vest

The chief executive of NZONE parent company Experience Co, Anthony Ritter, confirmed to media yesterday that the missing man was wearing a life vest.

The life vest had to be inflated manually by the wearer or instructor, but whether that had occurred was a matter for investigators.

Mr Ritter said NZONE staff were devastated by the incident, and its skydiving operations had been suspended until further notice.

He wanted to "convey our deepest sympathies to all those concerned'', particularly the missing man's family and friends.

The jump instructor, who had been discharged from Lakes District Hospital on the day of the accident with a "few minor bruises'', was in "remarkably good spirits'' in the circumstances.

Mr Ritter said the company would carry out an internal review to ensure its "systems and procedures were followed and continue to be followed''.

It had undergone a successful independent safety audit last August.

"Skydiving is a risky activity - there is an element of risk - but I can assure you we do everything we can to mitigate any such risk.''

Although the incident was NZONE's first fatality in its 27-year history, it was "one too many''.

When asked by the Otago Daily Times about the deaths of three skydivers in an accident at another Experience Co operation near Cairns in October, he said they were group's first fatalities in Australia for more than 20 years.

"It's never a good time for these incidents, but we believe in our systems, our procedures and our policies.''




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