CAA probing fatal crash

The Civil Aviation Authority is investigating the cause of a  fatal microlight crash in Southland on Saturday.

A man, thought to be from the North Island, was flying  in  a group of  microlights when he became separated from them.

The Rescue Co-ordination Centre  advised police about 12.45pm on Saturday that there was an overdue microlight just north of Nightcaps.

Southern Lakes Helicopter and Te Anau police search and rescue reached the plane about 4.15pm. It had come down in the Taringatura Forest, west of Benmore.

The sole male occupant, understood to be in his 70s, was deceased. His body has been recovered from the site.

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A CAA spokesman told Stuff a group of microlight enthusiasts met on Saturday morning in Invercargill  for a planned scenic flight to Stewart Island.

The aircraft was an Alpi Pioneer, the CAA spokesperson said.

A member of the flying group told Stuff several pilots had  spent the night in Alexandra, before making their way south.

There was to be a briefing at Opio before carrying on to Stewart Island.

However, the pilot never made the briefing.  Members of the flying party raised the alarm to search for him. It was believed foggy conditions may have  caused the pilot to make  a wrong turn in a valley, the man said.

Members of the flying party alerted rescue officials and also participated in the search for their colleague.

"He was a very experienced pilot," the member of the party said.

• Invercargill police  (03) 211-0400.

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