Skydiver missing in Lake Wakatipu named as Tyler Nii from California

Author
NZ Herald Staff,
Section
National,
Publish Date
Friday, 12 January 2018, 10:01PM
Tyler Nii, from California. The young traveller was the passenger in the last of nine pairs to leave the NZONE skydiving plane on Wednesday. (Photo: Player Capital Tennis Facebook)
Tyler Nii, from California. The young traveller was the passenger in the last of nine pairs to leave the NZONE skydiving plane on Wednesday. (Photo: Player Capital Tennis Facebook)

The skydiver presumed to have died in an ill-fated tandem fall into Lake Wakatipu has been named by police as 27-year-old Tyler Nii from California.

Nii was on holiday in New Zealand and travelling alone.

He and his tandem skydive instructor were the last of nine pairs to jump from a commercial NZONE skydive plane on Wednesday afternoon.

Nii and his instructor plunged into the lake's icy waters after getting into difficulty during the fall.

The instructor was plucked from the lake alive but an extensive search failed to find Nii who is presumed to have died.

"Police are providing support to Mr Nii's family and we join with the wider Queenstown community in extending our sympathies to them for their tragic loss," police said in a statement tonight.

"The Police National Dive Squad will arrive in Queenstown over the weekend to assess conditions, as well as the viability of using sonar equipment to assist with locating and recovering Mr Nii's body."

Earlier today police confirmed the dead man was an American citizen.

The young traveller was the passenger in the last of nine pairs to leave the plane on Wednesday. His pair crash-landed into the lake around 1.40pm.

The tandem master who survived the crash was plucked out of the water after a helicopter pilot who had been flying nearby heard a distress call over the radio about the incident and called for help.

Two of his colleagues jumped into a boat and came to the rescue of the tandem master in the water.

The Police National Dive Squad are due to arrive in Queenstown over the weekend to assess conditions and look at the viability of using sonar equipment to help locate the man.

Inspector Olaf Jensen, of Otago Lake Central Police, said the operation was complex, given the depth of the lake. The water is up to 250m deep where the pair entered the lake.

NZONE director Anthony Ritter spoke to media in Queenstown yesterday about the crash-landing, which happened during one of his company's skydiving operations.

Ritter dismissed as "purely speculative" a parachute malfunction as the potential cause of the crash-landing and said it was too early to determine what caused the fatal accident.

NZONE staff were assisting police and consular officials to try to contact the man's next of kin overseas.

Ritter extended the company's deepest sympathies to the man's family and friends.

"We're all devastated with yesterday's events."

NZONE had shut down its operations in Queenstown temporarily and was co-operating with the police and other investigators, including the Transport Accident Investigation Commission.

Another skydiving branch it operated at Wanaka was closed today out of respect but would continue tomorrow.

He said the company would also undertake its own internal review of what happened, adding that staff had been offered counselling.

It was the first fatal incident for NZONE in 27 years he said.

But it is the second accident in 12 months involving the company.

A tandem jump last January ended in a crash-landing with an instructor and trainee instructor suffering serious injuries.

And in 2015, a skydiving cameraman working for the company ended up in Dunedin Hospital with serious injuries after a jump went wrong.

NZONE Skydive business development manager Derek Melnick told the Otago Daily Times in September 2015 that a cameraman accompanying a group of customers on a skydive about 1pm suffered multiple injuries after a parachute ''malfunction'' caused him to land heavily.

He was skydiving solo and no customers were involved in the incident, Melnick said.

''He is one of our senior crew members, with a number of years' experience."

The company's operations were suspended for a period of time.

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