24 Jul 2018

Helicopter crash: Wanaka community mourns loss of pilot

12:39 pm on 24 July 2018

The Wanaka community is mourning the death of helicopter pilot Matthew Wallis, whose body was recovered last night from Lake Wanaka.

Police dive squad searching for Mandeep Singh.

The police dive squad recovered a body last night. (File photo.) Photo: RNZ / Lauren Baker

Mr Wallis went missing while on a routine flight to Mt Aspiring National Park on Saturday afternoon.

Last night some wreckage and a body believed to be Mr Wallis was recovered from Lake Wanaka after a remotely operated vehicle was used in the search.

Pilot Matthew Wallis, whose helicopter crashed into Lake Wanaka.

Pilot Matthew Wallis, whose helicopter crashed into Lake Wanaka. Photo: Supplied

Queenstown Lakes district councillor Ross McRobie said the community rallied around during the search, providing food and giving their time, as Mr Wallis was part of a very strong aviation community based at Wanaka Airport.

"Matt and his family were very heavily involved in the tourism industry, in the aviation industry and in the community - and it's a very strong community. And while it's very sad, it's very nice to know his body has been recovered and that there will be a very nice farewell for him in due course."

Mr McRobie said it was a relief that Mr Wallis' body was found relatively quickly.

Meanwhile, the cause of the helicopter crash that claimed the life of Mr Wallis is unlikely to be known for 18 months.

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) has opened an inquiry into the crash of the Robinson R44 helicopter.

A TAIC spokesperson said two investigators will gather evidence at the scene before the wreckage is transported to a TAIC facility in Wellington.

It will take 18 months to analyse the evidence and come forward with findings.

The inquiry would examine the people involved, equipment used, environmental factors and what the helicopter was doing, the spokesperson said.

The death has been referred to the coroner.

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