Skydiver missing in Wakatipu

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A tandem skydiving passenger is missing in Lake Wakatipu and his instructor is in hospital with serious injuries after an incident near Queenstown yesterday.

Emergency services were alerted at 1.42pm after two male skydivers landed in the lake near Jacks Point, about 15km south of the resort.

The instructor was plucked from the water a short time later, but a search by aircraft and boats failed to locate the other man and was suspended at 4.40pm.

A shoreline search by LandSAR and Coastguard volunteers was called off about 6.30pm.

Police said the search would be reassessed today from 9am.

A statement by NZONE Skydive Queenstown confirmed the two men ”landed in a body of water” after making a tandem jump.

The injured man, a ”highly experienced instructor who has completed thousands of jumps”, was in a stable condition in Lakes District Hospital.

The company had suspended its skydiving operations while the search continued.

A Transport Accident Investigation Commission (Taic) statement said the incident was the result of a ”possible malfunction of the parachute”.

It had started an inquiry, and two investigators would arrive at the scene today.

”The circumstances reported are that during a commercial tandem skydive, where the passenger is attached to a ‘tandem master,’ a possible malfunction of the parachute has resulted in the pair entering Lake Wakatipu.

”The tandem master has been recovered from the lake and taken to Queenstown hospital with reported serious injuries.”

Searchers scour Lake Wakatipu for the missing skydiver. Photo: James Allan Photography
Searchers scour Lake Wakatipu for the missing skydiver. Photo: James Allan Photography

The search was scaled up throughout the afternoon, when a Coastguard vessel and two water taxis that were first on the scene were joined by a dozen more vessels, including three jet skis.

They searched the lake in a grid pattern that extended from 1km to 2km offshore from Jacks Point back to the shoreline.

The search began in calm conditions, but by 4.30pm the lake was extremely rough, prompting police to suspend the on-water search.

Two NZONE planes circled above the lake for about two hours following the incident.

They were later replaced by a Skydive Wanaka aircraft and another commercial light plane.

NZONE operates from an aerodrome about 2km south of Jacks Point.

Two of its staff were injured in a tandem training jump last January, while in 2015 a cameraman employed by the company was seriously injured in a heavy landing caused by a parachute malfunction.

guy.williams@odt.co.nz

– Additional reporting by Mandy Cooper