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Third man dead following mid-air crash

Published: 11:52AM Sunday February 17, 2008 Source: One News/Newstalk ZB

Three people are dead after a light plane and a helicopter collided mid-air above Paraparaumu, north of Wellington late on Sunday morning.

The collision occurred just after 11am, sending the helicopter plummeting through the roof of the Placemakers timber yard on Kapiti Road near Paraparaumu Airport. Pilot Dave Fielding and a male flight student were killed at the scene.

Earlier in the day Helipro, one of New Zealand's largest helicopter operators, confirmed its aircraft was involved in the collision.

"The flight being carried out was by a Helipro student pilot carrying out his private pilot licence with a very experienced and well regarded flight instructor," says Helipro chief executive Rick Lucas.

Their bodies were still at the scene on Sunday evening due to aviation fuel hazards.

Eye witnesses say both aircraft went down almost instantly.

"The plane sorta hit the helicopter then the plane went instantly into a spiral and then the helicopter hovered for a couple of seconds into a nosedive and just went straight into the ground," says Jesse Darby.

The light plane crashed about 200m away in Dennis Taylor Court, its engine flying through the roof of a house.

The male pilot was taken to hospital with critical injuries but later died.

Debris from both aircrafts was strewn throughout the neighbourhood - the Placemakers store was closed and at least four homes in Dennis Taylor Court were evacuated.

Police cordoned off parts of Kapiti Road and more than half a dozen fire trucks as well as police and ambulances were called out.

Miraculously nobody on the ground was hurt.

Investigators are appealing to residents not to touch any debris as these items will be critical to the crash investigation.

Kapiti police say anyone who finds debris on their property or witnessed the crash, should call them on 04 296 6805.

The aircraft, a small training Cessna, was being run out of the local aero club.  Very little is known about the pilot except that he was Caucasion and believed to be in his mid twenties.

The names of those who were killed will not be released until police formally identify them and contact next of kin.

Paraparaumu Airport is one of the busiest uncontrolled air spaces in New Zealand and locals says they have seen a number of close calls before.

However, aviation officials say that it is not unusual for an airport of this size to be unmanned.