Pair killed in West Coast microlight crash named

The father of a 25-year-old man who died in a microlight crash on the West Coast says his son loved flying and being outdoors.

Cole Ashby died alongside his mate, 58-year-old Roger Smith, when their microlight crashed on Carters Beach near Westport sometime overnight.

Local residents located the men's bodies in wreckage on Carters Beach early this morning.

They had failed to return home after leaving for a flight during good weather yesterday afternoon.

Mr Ashby's father Peter said his son loved flying and went whenever someone offered him a ride.

"He loves it, he loves anything like that. [He] loves bikes, helicopters, aeroplanes, cars, he loves them all," the father said.

Cole Ashby was a machine operator at Stockton opencast mine and is believed to have been the passenger in the aircraft.

Peter father said Mr Smith, the pilot, was experienced and the pair had been on a recreational flight.

He said someone heard the microlight fly past Cape Foulwind, near where the wreckage was found, about 9.10pm.

"That was the last time anyone heard them in the microlight," Peter Ashby said.

Mr Smith's family has declined to speak to media.

Buller Regional Council mayor Pat McManus said the men were well known in the community and Mr Smith, who he knew personally, had been flying for "quite some time".

"[I heard the news] just straight off the street, as you often do in Westport. Sometimes it's true and sometime's it's not. Sadly this time it was true," Mr McManus said.

Mr McManus said the community was in shock at the news but those on the West Coast were resilient.

"It's just another sad event for the West Coast," he said.

"West Coasters are strong people and very resilient. They meet these things head on and deal with them."

West Coast police search and rescue co-ordinator Sean Judd said the microlight was reported overdue about 7.45pm.

The Solid Energy rescue helicopter was dispatched but a member of the public found the microlight on the beach at 9am.

Mr Smith's body was found with the wreckage while police located Mr Ashby's body about a kilometre down the beach.

They suspected it had been washed out of the aircraft by the tide.

Mr Judd said the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and police were investigating the cause of the crash.

He confirmed conditions were foggy at the time.

"We will look at everything and examine all the possibilities, but the fog could possibly have been a significant contributing factor," he said

Mr Judd said the fog had very briefly hampered this morning's search operation, but most of it had cleared by the time the rescue helicopter arrived.

The wreckage and bodies were removed from the beach this morning.

The wreckage was in a locked shed awaiting CAA investigators, Mr Judd said.

A Westport man who used to fly microlights, and knew both of the men killed in the crash, said the well-experienced pilot had been flying microlights for about 20 years.

Chris Reynolds said the pilot had a state-of-the-art aircraft.

However, modern aircraft lacked the glide capability of their predecessors if the engine cut out, Mr Reynolds said.

He did not know if fog had contributed to last night's crash.

- Hana Garrett-Walker and Kieran Campbell of APNZ and Ben Aulakh and Lee Scanlon of the Westport News

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