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British paraglider killed in NZ after horrifying accident while on solo flight

Mirror logo Mirror 23/04/2017 Scarlet Howes
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A British expat has died after a tragic paraglider accident in New Zealand.

Ben Letham, 26, who was originally from Scotland, was on a solo flight near Queenstown on the South Island when the tragedy happened on Saturday.

He came down in the grounds of Queenstown Primary School after taking off from the town's Skyline Gondola.

Gavin Taylor, GForce Paragliding co-director said the expat, originally from Lochgilphead, Argyll, had been flying for around six years and was a full-time pilot with the company.

Taylor said conditions at the time of the incident had been calm and he did not know what had gone wrong.

He said: "Ben would have done thousands of flights at this site, both commercially and recreationally, but on this day he was flying with his own equipment using a single person wing.

"Our whole team is absolutely devastated by his death. He was a really nice guy, a talented pilot, and we're stunned to lose one of the youngest members of our team with his whole life ahead of him.

"We've lost a close colleague and friend who will be very sadly missed. Our thoughts and deepest sympathies go out to his partner, friends and family."

Witnesses reported that he had gone head over heels and fell before he landed on his back.

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Taylor said Ben was well known in the Queenstown community and was a volunteer with the Alpine cliff rescue team.

A JustGiving page has been set up in memory of Ben to help with the "costs that occur in these unexpected circumstances".

Vicky Zoers, who started the crowdfunding campaign, said: "Any money raised will go towards the direct cost of giving our legend the send off he deserves, to have him celebrated in Queenstown and in Scotland."

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Company Alpine is co-operating with authorities investigating his death. It has temporarily suspended operations as a mark of respect to Ben, his friends and family and to enable staff to remember their colleague.

Queenstown Primary School principal Fiona Cavanagh said the school was shocked and saddened to learn of the death on the school grounds.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office confirmed the death.

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A spokesman said: "We are providing assistance to the family of a British man who sadly died in Queenstown, New Zealand."

To donate to the Just Giving page go here .

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