An aviation expert has told an inquest the skydiving crash which claimed the lives of nine people near the Fox Glacier could have been prevented.
The comments came on the second day of the inquest into the September 4, 2010, crash which happened less than nine hours after Christchurch's magnitude-7.1 earthquake.
Pilot and engineer Barry Payne told the inquest he agreed with Transport Accident Investigation Commission's findings that the plane was unbalanced and overloaded when it crashed less than a minute after take-off.
He said in addition to gravity issues, he believes the crash was due to a chain of errors and safety inadequacies.
"The occurrence involving ZKUF was totally preventable," he said.
Bayne was tasked with investigating the crash independently from the Transport Accident investigators.
Today's comments have angered families of those killed in the crash who have reiterated calls for tougher safety guidelines in New Zealand's adventure tourism industry.
Pamela Bennett, whose son Adam was one of the tandem master skydivers killed, said it was difficult to accept the crash could have been prevented.
"You can almost handle losing them in an accident but in something that is preventable does make you extremely angry," Bennett said.
Those killed included Skydive New Zealand director and tandem dive master Rod Miller, 55, of Greymouth; pilot Chaminda Senadhira, 33, of Queenstown; and dive masters Adam Bennett, 47, from Australia but living in Motueka, Michael Suter, 32, of New Plymouth, and Christopher McDonald, 62, of Mapua.
The tourists who died were Patrick Byrne, 26, of Ireland; Glenn Bourke, 18, of Australia; Annika Kirsten, 23, of Germany and Brad Coker, 24, of England.
Crash like watching a 'kamikaze pilot'
A witness of the Fox Glacier plane crash earlier told the inquest watching the plane go down was like watching a "kamikaze pilot".
Oliver Mason, who had been in Fox Glacier for about a week and was at the hangar when the accident happened, said the plane took off "quite quickly" and about 30 feet earlier than it should have.
Mason recalled watching the plane climb and turn, and thinking it was normal. However, he then saw it drop and start losing altitude.
"We could tell it was in trouble."
Mason said someone voiced out loud that "something's not right", while another person nearby was "willing the plane to fly" by saying "come on".
"I remember the sound it made as it dropped ... It was like a kamikaze pilot."
One witness grabbed one of the skydiver's girlfriends and turned her away so she would not see the plane go down, he said.
As the plane hit the ground there was a "big explosion".
A few of the witnesses grabbed a fire extinguisher from the hangar and raced over to the nearby farm where the plane had crashed.
Despite the explosion, they managed to get close to the wreckage but could not find any survivors.
"At that point I remember other people coming over and milling
around and some people were hugging or consoling each other. I
think I was in shock."
Relatives tell of their devastation
Family members of many of the dead addressed the court, some criticising New Zealand's aviation industry and regulations for failing to ensure the safety of their loved ones.
A letter by the German backpacker's parents, Susanne and Werner Schmidt-Kirsten, was read to the court and expressed their agony at losing their only child.
They said their "beautiful and talented daughter" was burnt to death when the plane exploded into a fireball.
They learnt of the crash when reading a newspaper that had a small article about the Canterbury earthquake and briefly mentioned a plane crash had killed nine people, including someone from their German home town.
They blamed the Civil Aviation Authority for failing to adequately supervise the industry and Skydive New Zealand for acting negligently.
Wellington Crown solicitor Grant Burston, who is assisting the coroner for the inquest, read a letter by Coker's parents, who called the crash preventable.
They noted the Government had introduced extra controls on skydiving as a result of the crash.
"There have been without doubt major failings by the Civil Aviation Authority and there were major failings by the aircraft operators."
They said the plane had been flown out of balance and overloaded 75 times, which meant such an accident was an "inevitable certainty".
They called for law changes to ensure "proper responsibility" to those who were involved, saying there was no accountability in New Zealand.