June 16, 2019 / 6:14 AM / a month ago

Two dead after light planes collide mid-air in New Zealand

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Two light aircraft collided mid-air on their final approach at a regional aerodrome in New Zealand on Sunday killing both pilots, police said.

Four parachutists on board of one of the planes had jumped shortly before it crashed with the other plane, a training aircraft. A helicopter, also preparing to land, managed to avoid the collision.

The police said that both planes dropped immediately after impact, hitting the ground south of the Hood Aerodrome near the town of Masterton.

There was no immediate information about a potential cause of the crash and the police would not release the names of the victims, saying they were still trying to locate family members.

Witnesses told New Zealand media that they heard a loud bang and saw the planes spiraling down.

Stuff.nz, a New Zealand news website, cited a local pilot instructor saying the aerodrome was unrestricted up to 9,500 feet, but pilots were required to record their movements through a shared radio channel.

One of the planes belonged to Skydive Wellington while the other to the Wairarapa Aero Club. The Hood Aerodrome is owned and operated by the Masterton District Council.

“We have a close-knit community at Hood Aerodrome and the incident has understandably rocked that community,” the council said in a statement on its website.

Reporting by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Michael Perry

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