'He was a legend': Beloved DoC ranger Paul Hondelink killed in Wanaka helicopter crash farewelled

Hundreds of mourners have gathered at Wanaka Airport to pay their respects to the second victim of last week's fatal helicopter crash.

Department of Conservation (DoC) senior ranger Paul Hondelink was one of three killed when the helicopter they were in crashed shortly after take-off.

The flag next to Wanaka's war memorial is flying at half-mast at the request of Queenstown Lakes District Deputy Mayor Calum MacLeod.

The flag next to Wanaka's war memorial was flying at half-mast.
The flag next to Wanaka's war memorial was flying at half-mast. Photo credit: Newshub

'Hondy', as Paul Hondelik was frequently referred to as, worked with the New Zealand Forest Service from 1972 before helping start DoC in 1987 and pioneered Judas goat and tahr control work.

"He was a legend in terms of his conservation commitment [and] his work doing aerial control," Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage told Newshub.

"He was very well-known for his huge expertise and commitments to protecting our mountain lands."

A guard of honour is formed at Mr Hondelink's funeral on Sunday.
A guard of honour is formed at Mr Hondelink's funeral on Sunday. Photo credit: Newshub

As well as his conservation work, the 63-year-old was a critical part of emergency service search and rescue and fire response, and has been described as a pillar of the Wanaka community.

At the conclusion of the service, his coffin will pass through a guard of honour made up of emergency service members to a waiting helicopter where he will be flown around the town one final time before being laid to rest.

Paul Hondelink, Nick Wallis and Scott Theobald.
Paul Hondelink, Nick Wallis and Scott Theobald. Photo credit: Supplied

Senior ranger Scott Theobald (59) was also killed along with well-known and experienced local helicopter pilot Nick Wallis (38), who was farewelled yesterday.

"We have lost so much," DoC Director General Lou Sanson says. "Paul and Scott have some of the most significant conservation experience in the country - if not the world."

Mr Hondelink's coffin is carried to a helicopter.
Mr Hondelink's coffin is carried to a helicopter. Photo credit: Newshub

Mr Sanson, who described the crash as "the hardest day" in his job, also paid tribute to Mr Wallis, whom he called a friend.

"I also want to extend our deepest sympathies to the Wallis family. Nick and the family have been conservation champions and dear friends to the DoC team," he added.

The helicopter crashed on Thursday last week.
The helicopter crashed on Thursday last week. Photo credit: Newshub

The trio were en route from Wanaka Airport to Haast, where they were due to meet a Newshub crew to shoot a story about the beginning of the tahr cull.

However the Hughes 500 helicopter they were in crashed and burst into flames just two kilometres from where they took off.

It's not known what caused last Thursday's crash and the Transport Accident Investigation Commission is still investigating.

Scott Theobald
Scott Theobald Photo credit: Supplied

A private service for Scott Theobald will be held at the Glentanner Holiday Park near Mount Cook on Wednesday with another service held in Whangarei on Saturday.

Newshub.

Contact Newshub with your story tips:
news@newshub.co.nz