19 Feb 2015

Men killed in helicopter crash named

7:33 pm on 19 February 2015

The police have named the two men who were killed in a helicopter crash near Queenstown today.

They were Stephen Anthony Nicholson Combe, 42, of Wanaka, and James Louis Patterson Gardner, 18, of Queenstown.

The craft, believed to be a Robinson 44 operated by Over the Top Helicopters, based in Queenstown, was reported overdue at about 2.30 and located in a remote area of bush shortly after 4pm.

The aircraft was travelling between Queenstown and the Lochy River area in the Eyre Mountains.

Maritime New Zealand said the men had been heading back to base after a training flight.

Rescue coordination centre spokesperson Keith Allen said three helicopters took part in the search.

"We did have a last known position because the helicopter carried a tracking system and that updates every couple of minutes, and we searched based on the last known position of the helicopter."

Mr Allen said flying conditions were not too bad.

"There may have been a little bit of wind but it certainly wasn't conditions that you would be concerned about."

Detective Sergeant Brian Cameron of Queenstown Police said it was too early to speculate about the possible causes of the crash.

Staff from the Civilian Aviation Authority and the Transport Accident Investigation Commission were due to arrive in Queenstown early tomorrow to meet with Police and carry out a detailed scene investigation.

Queenstown helicopter company Over The Top has expressed its sympathy to the families of the two employees who died.

A spokesperson said both men were highly regarded team members.