Two men died over the weekend when the small plane they are flying crashed in Hawke's Bay in Hastings, New Zealand.
The victims were identified as Christopher Rawlings, 48, of Clive, and Christopher Howell, 46, of the United Kingdom.
Authorities were surprised of the tragic accident because the pair were even in radio contact with colleagues only minutes before the two-seater Tomahawk crashed below a low-flying training area near the settlement of Maraekakaho.
"It was a little, tiny plane and it made a strange noise and it rolled a little bit too I think about a 45 degree angle in the water's direction as it was going up, then it nose-dived I heard this 'bang' and that was it. It was all gone," Alison Arthur, a Matapiro resident, told stuff.co.nz.
Ms Arthur noted what happened was a bit spooky because she was on low-laying land shielded from the river by trees.
Bruce Govenlock, Hawkes Bay and East Coast Aero Club president, said the victims were an "experienced'' club instructor and a UK visitor preparing for his pilot's licence validation exam on Monday.
Applicants wanting to obtain a New Zealand commercial pilot's licence must complete a flight test with a flight examiner, along with valid overseas qualifications. Medical as well as a written exam are likewise required to be passed before they get the license.
Mr Govenlock said the routine call back to the club, placed a few minutes before the emergency locator beacon went off, gave off no indication that something wrong was going on.
Ms Arthur however said the plane appeared to stall before she saw it nosedived into the river.
Jeremy Bruce, Lowe Corporation Rescue Helicopter pilot, said the Tomahawk plane was spotted nose down in the middle of the river, its tail in the air. There was no road access, making the recovery operation difficult for rescuers. Paramedics had to wade through about a metre of water to get to the wreckage.