Tributes flow for Wallis at funeral

Alice Wallis holds her husband's flying helmet as pallbearers carry Matthew Wallis' coffin into...
Alice Wallis holds her husband's flying helmet as pallbearers carry Matthew Wallis' coffin into the Alpine Helicopters hangar for his funeral. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
He was described as a "master of making friends'' - and 1500 of them attended his funeral in Wanaka.

Matthew Timothy Wallis (39), who died in a helicopter crash 10 days ago, was farewelled at a service held in the family's Alpine Helicopters hangar, with a marquee attached, at Wanaka Airport yesterday.

Matthew Wallis
Matthew Wallis
Matthew was the son of Warbirds Over Wanaka Airshow founders Sir Tim and Prue Wallis and one of four brothers involved in the Alpine Helicopters business that began 55 years ago.

Older brother Jonathan said Matthew was a "safe and capable pilot'' and the family "categorically'' did not know what caused the crash.

"We do not blame anyone or anything for what has happened.

"Because of that, neither should you.''

He and other family members spoke of their gratitude to those who helped recover Matthew's body and for the support from the community.

Matthew's wife, Alice, described her life with Matthew as a "major adventure'', and brothers Nick and Toby painted a picture of a colourful character never short of a good idea.

Toby described him as "larger than life'' and "always planning something unique, untested and new'' and Nick said he had "a flair for the unusual''.

Jonathan credited Matthew with developing the tourism side of the business, and others spoke of the personality that enabled him to do that.

Dave Hiatt, who worked with him on the development of the company's Minaret Station Alpine Lodge, said he was "one of the world's finest hosts''.

"In a world of fluff and ego, Matthew was genuine.''

His friend Dougal Innes recounted their many hunting adventures together and likened Matthew to a "Jack Russell chasing a rabbit'' who would not give up on the chase.

He had a great sense of humour and "never suffered from any form of embarrassment'', he said.

The service ended with Matthew's pallbearers carrying his casket to one of five helicopters.

While he and passengers were being boarded, an Ohakea-based Spitfire that is a regular at the Warbirds show performed aerobatics in the hands of Squadron Leader Sean Perrett of the RNZAF.

The fleet of helicopters then flew to Matthew's favourite places in the mountains.

He is to be cremated.

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