WELLINGTON (DPA) — Thirteen people had the parachute jump of their lives Wednesday, leaping for safety before their skydiving plane crashed into New Zealand's largest lake, Lake Taupo, police said.
The bright pink Skydive Taupo light aircraft plunged into the lake just after midday local time after suffering engine problems shortly after takeoff.
All 13 people on board, including the pilot, were able to parachute out of the plane and landed safely on shore, police said.
The others consisted of six crew members and six passengers preparing for a tandem skydive.
A witness told the New Zealand Herald he saw the skydivers bail out of the plane before it nosedived into the lake.
He said the plane had "conked out" on the southern side of the lake before going into the bay.
"It was just 'putt' and stop. Then it cruised for about 100 metres. Then half a dozen parachutists jumped out."
The 616-square-kilometre lake in the North Island is a popular area for boating and fishing in summer and lies near the snow-capped volcanoes of the central plateau.
It is also a major destination for adventure seekers, offering tandem skydiving and parasailing over the lake
Parachute tour operator Skydive Taupo says it offers the world's most stunning dropzone surrounded by snow tipped peaks and the blue waters of the lake.
Police divers would assist investigators with underwater inspection and photography of the wreck before it is salvaged, said Peter Northcote, spokesman for the Transport Accident Investigation Commission.