6 Nov 2008

Pilot's body found in Lake Wanaka

9:05 pm on 6 November 2008

Divers have recovered the body of a missing helicopter pilot in Lake Wanaka.

Morgan Saxton, who was 31, crashed into the south-eastern arm of the lake in a Robinson R22 helicopter on Saturday evening.

Sergeant Aaron Nicholson says divers found the body inside some helicopter wreckage on Wednesday night.

The depth of the wreckage was beyond the diving capacity of the search teams, and the body was recovered by adapting a hook to an underwater, remote-operated camera.

The aircraft's engine was earlier found in 74 metres of water.

Mr Saxton was on bail pending an appeal, after he and his father, David, were jailed for stealing greenstone from south Westland. They were released from prison in June.

In a statement on Monday, the Saxton family thanked searchers and the public for their help and support.

Phil Melchior from Land Search and Rescue, said a postmortem would be carried out in Invercargill on Thursday, and Mr Saxton's death has been referred to the coroner.

Mr Melchior said it may be some time before the cause of the crash is known.