Updated 1:29pm — All 13 onboard a skydiving plane that crashed into Lake Taupo a short time ago are safe and sound say authorities. Skydivers bailed out of a stalled skydiving plane about 400 metres above Lake Taupo in the seconds before it plunged nose-first into the water this morning.
A witness to the crash, who watched from only a few hundred metres away, said about six skydivers bailed out during the midday accident.
“Their parachutes opened. Then [the pilot] nosedived into the lake. I don’t know if he got out.”
The plane reportedly crashed south of Waitahanui township.
The witness, who didn’t want to be named, said the yellow skydiving plane “conked out” off Waitahanui, a small village on the southern side of the lake, before going into Rotongaio Bay.
“It was just ‘putt’ and stop. Then it cruised for about 100 metres. Then half a dozen parachutists jumped out.”
The witness said the accident happened in full view of dozens of holiday makers, who raced to the shoreline to watch.
Those who had boats got them into the lake and set out to help the pilot and escaped parachutists.
“Those with boats came to the rescue,” the witness said.
She said she had watched about six parachutes open and believed the people beneath them had made it safely to the lake, despite the low altitude.
The witness believed the plane was in its initial climb from Taupo airport, a popular base for a cluster of skydiving companies.
A St John spokesman said two ambulances and a rescue helicopter were at the scene.
He said 12 people from the plane were being assessed but there were no major injuries reported at this stage.
Civil Aviation Authority spokesman Mike Richards said it was miraculous no one was killed.
Mr Richards said more details would be released later as it was still “really, really early days” but a safety investigation team was already reviewing the incident.
Police spokeswoman Kim Perks said emergency services were notified after midday.
“Reports came in at 12.25pm of a plane crashing into the lake.
“Our initial understanding is that there is no fatalities.”
She said it was too early to say if there were injuries or what went wrong.