Man who died paragliding in Queenstown named

The scene after the crash yesterday (Lloyd Burr/Newshub)
The scene after the crash yesterday (Lloyd Burr/Newshub)

The paragliding company which employed the man who died in an incident in central Queenstown on Saturday say he was "a qualified, experienced tandem pilot". 

Ben Letham, 26, originally from Scotland, was on a solo recreational flight at the time of his death. He had been flying commercially for GForce Paragliding for three years.

GForce Paragliding co-director Gavin Taylor said Mr Letham had been flying for approximately six years in total and was a full-time pilot with the company. 

He took off from Skyline Gondola and crash-landed in the grounds of Queenstown Primary School.

Mr Taylor said conditions at the time of the incident had been calm, and could not comment on what may have gone wrong.

"Ben would have done thousands of flights at this site, both commercially and recreationally, but on this day he was flying with his own equipment using a single person wing," said Mr Taylor.

"Our whole team is absolutely devastated by his death. He was a really nice guy, a talented pilot, and we're stunned to lose one of the youngest members of our team with his whole life ahead of him.

"We've lost a close colleague and friend who will be very sadly missed. Our thoughts and deepest sympathies go out to his partner, friends and family."

Mr Taylor said Mr Letham was well known in the Queenstown community, and was a volunteer with the Alpine cliff rescue team.

GForce Paragliding is co-operating closely with authorities investigating the death. It has temporarily suspended operations as a mark of respect to Mr Letham, his friends and family, and to enable staff to remember their colleague.

Queenstown Primary School principal Fiona Cavanagh said the school was "shocked and saddened" to learn of the death on the school grounds.