Update on water rescue at Lake Wakatipu

Saturday, 13 Jan, 2018

A tandem skydiver who is presumed drowned after crashing into Lake Wakatipu was an American citizen.

TAIC investigator in charge Barry Stephenson told a news conference in Queenstown this afternoon it was still very early days, and they were in the evidence gathering stage.

New Zealand Parachute Industry Association chief executive Jenn Lowe said skydiving in New Zealand had an excellent safety record.

He said he did not want to comment on the suggestion there was a parachute malfunction, but that this would be investigated.

At least 10 Taic investigators are working to piece together the cause of the skydiving crash landing.

In a statement, Experience Co said the instructor on the skydive was highly experienced and had completed thousands of jumps.

A GoPro camera that had been strapped to the tandem master's wrist was salvaged and given to police.

Inspector Jensen also said the jump master has been spoken to by police over the incident.

Addressing media today, NZONE director Anthony Ritter said the company had suspended operations and would undertake its own internal review of the incident.

"The company voluntarily suspended local operations immediately after the incident", Ritter said.

He said they had not considered yet when they would reopen.

And the ABC in Australia reported that NZONE's parent company Experience Co, which runs Skydive Mission Beach in Far North Queensland, was involved in a fatal crash a year ago.

It is less than three months since mother-of-eight Kerri Pike, and instructors Peter Dawson and Toby Turner died after a mid-air collision in Mission Beach.

Lake Wakatipu, with Kelvin Heights in the background.

It set off a chain of events involving two of his colleagues on land that resulted in the miraculous water rescue of a dazed skydive instructor who had just plunged into the icy waters of Lake Wakatipu. "The timely response in recovering the jump master was critical to ensuring his survival", he said.

He said the young man was travelling alone, was on holiday and Nzone staff were helping police try to contact the man's next of kin overseas.

"Given the nature of the incident and the time that has past the ongoing police activity is focussed on a recovery operation rather than a rescue".

Insp Jensen said it was unclear whether sonar equipment would work because the lake was about 250m deep where the two crashed into it.