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Helicopter Pilot's Body Recovered


Wanaka Police

Helicopter Pilot's Body Recovered

Police and Navy divers last night located and recovered the body of missing helicopter pilot Morgan Saxton deep in Lake Wanaka.

Sergeant Aaron Nicholson Wanaka SAR Co-ordinator said 'in very trying conditions the body of Mr Saxton was recovered inside some of the Helicopter wreckage from 94 meters of water just before 9.00pm last night.'

Sgt Nicholson praised the efforts of all those involved in the LandSAR operation to locate and recovery the body of Morgan Saxton.

'This has been a major operation involving Police, Navy, LandSAR volunteers and the local helicopter community. The professionalism of all involved has been exemplary,' he said.

Mr Saxton, 31, went missing on Saturday evening at about 6.00pm when enroute to Wanaka Airport from Haast.

Early indications of a helicopter crash into Lake Wanaka just north of Mou Wahu Island saw an intensive three-day ground, marine and aerial search launched which included extensive use of night vision equipment.

Nicholson said it was clear after this time that efforts needed to be centred under the water and the Police and Navy dive teams were contacted and have been combing the lake bed of the crash site with sophisticated sonar and camera equipment for the past two days.

Apart from Mr Saxton's body, dive teams also recovered most of the fuselage of the two-seater Robinson R22.

The depth of the wreckage is beyond the diving capacity of the search teams, but was recovered by adapting a hook to an underwater remote operated camera, to attach a line to the fuselage.

'This was classic number eight wire Kiwi ingenuity,' Nicholson said. 'We used a ski pole, a snap hook and LandSAR climbing rope, plus dive team muscle.'

'Everyone involved worked very hard to return Morgan to his family and we are all grateful to have been able to help bring closure to this tragedy.'

Police will be referring the incident to the Coroner for routine investigation into the cause of death.

Transport Accident Investigation Commission investigators were expected to arrive in Wanaka later today to head the crash investigation and decide whether or not to attempt to retrieve the helicopter engine which is in 74m of water.


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