British man dies after paragliding accident in Queenstown, NZ

A British man has died after a paragliding accident in New Zealand's South Island.

Ben Letham, 26, was originally from Scotland but had been a full-time pilot with GForce Paragliding in the tourist resort of Queenstown.

He came down in the grounds of Queenstown Primary School on Saturday morning after taking off from the town's gondola.

Witnesses said that Mr Letham, from Lochgilphead, Argyll, went head over heels and fell before landing on his back.

A Dutch tourist told the Otago Daily Times that Mr Letham fell for five seconds.

"It was really high," she said.

"We saw them making a loop, sort of, and then they fell in his paraglider."

Gavin Taylor, co-director of GForce, said Mr Letham had been flying for around six years and it was not clear what had caused his death.

Mr Taylor 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."

Mr Letham was also a member of the Queenstown Alpine Cliff Rescue team.

Fellow team member Chris Prudden told New Zealand's Herald on Sunday: "Ben was a great guy and he will be very sorely missed.

"He was renowned for his flying expertise and he was also a very capable climber.

"Everyone here is shocked about what happened. Ben loved flying and he had a great sense of humour."

Mr Prudden said Mr Letham had also suffered a serious spinal injury in the past but had staged a remarkable recovery to fly again.

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

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