20 Feb 2015

Son of owner killed in helicopter crash

12:40 pm on 20 February 2015

An 18-year-old killed in a helicopter crash in a remote part of Otago yesterday was the son of the Queenstown flight company's owner.

The bodies of James Patterson-Gardner and his instructor Stephen Combe, a former British Royal Marine captain who served in Iraq, were found with the wreckage of the Robinson 44 in remote bush shortly after 4pm.

Both men worked for Over the Top helicopters, which is owned by Mr Gardner's mother, Louisa "Choppy" Patterson.

Friends of Mr Patterson-Gardner say he left school last year and was enjoying following in his mother's footsteps by learning to fly.

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.

Mr Combe, a father of two young boys, served eight years with the British Royal Marines, including active duty in Iraq before moving to New Zealand in 2003.

Born in South Africa and raised in Britain, he also worked for the Christian organisation Food for the Hungry in Rwanda during that country's civil war.

Mr Combe's friends say he was a dedicated family man with a wife and two sons who spent his time on the ground working in his church community.

Queenstown police say a detailed scene investigation will carried out today with investigators from the Civil Aviation Authority and the Transport Accident Investigation Commission.

The deaths of the two men have been referred to the coroner and post mortem examinations will be carried out in Christchurch today.