8 Jan 2015

Video: Focus on plane engine retrieval

4:47 pm on 8 January 2015

The head of an investigation into yesterday's light plane crash into Lake Taupo says retrieving the engine from the lakebed is of key interest.

The 13 people on board Skydive Taupo's plane successfully bailed out before it crashed into the lake near Waitahanui early in the afternoon.

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) is surveying the wreckage, which is in several pieces, near Waitahanui just south of Taupo.

The investigation leader, Peter Williams, said they were initially told the aircraft had a sudden engine stoppage, resulting in flames coming out of the exhaust.

"It's way too early to have direct concerns about anything. We know what's happened and it'll be quite a while until we know why that's happened," he said.

"Yes, it's reasonably widely used. The engine is more widely used - the engine type - so that's of particular interest."

Mr Williams said the tourists, who are of various nationalities, were understood to have left on a tour bus earlier today and were headed south.

He said the aircraft should be hauled out of the water tomorrow morning.

Earlier today, Mr Williams said he hoped key data from the engine would be recovered when the wreck was salvaged.

"It's reported by the pilot that the engine went bang and the propeller stopped and had some smoke and flame and lost power at that point."

He said the Canadian engine manufacturer had been notified and was waiting to hear for the investigation results before taking any action.

Holiday-maker's mission to help

Rowan Eves was sitting on his deck at his holiday home south of Taupo when he saw the events unfold yesterday.

Mr Eves said he heard a very loud bang and, in a matter of seconds, saw a number of people parachute out of a light plane before it nosedived into the lake.

He said his wife rang 111 and he immediately took his boat out and headed to the crash site to check to see if anyone was trapped in the submerged wreckage.

"After being at the crash site, there was nothing there we could do, we went over to the far beach and picked up a couple of parachuters that were on the beach on the far side."

Mr Eves said one of the tourists appeared to be in shock when he got to him but the instructor he had jumped tandem with was calm and collected.

He said the tourist was of Asian descent and looked to be in his 30s.

Mr Eves said while most of the other jumpers ended up landing at a nearby campground, the pilot had safely landed in a nearby blackberry field.

A shot of the site where the Skydive Taupo crashed into Lake Taupo.

Police at the site where the Skydive Taupo plane crashed into Lake Taupo. Photo: Jeremy Bright

Evacuation went very well - Skydive Taupo

Skydive Taupo CEO Roy Clements said the evacuation procedure went very well.

Mr Clements said the six professional skydivers on board dealt with the situation correctly.

He said that when the plane's engine cut out shortly after takeoff, they jumped out, with their six parachuting clients harnessed to them.

Mr Clements said the customers have commented on how calm the crew was, and how that gave them confidence.

He said the crew has had a debrief about the crash, and they were all keen to get back up in the air today.

Taupo District Mayor David Trewavas paid tribute to the skydiving company following the crash.

Mr Trewavas said while he was shocked to hear about the incident, the fact 13 people survived shows just how safe the skydiving industry actually was.

He said Lake Taupo was the largest drop zone in the Southern Hemisphere and skydiving was a big industry for the town.