New Zealand man 'decapitated' by home-made hovercraft

A New Zealand man has been decapitated by a propeller while demonstrating a home-made hovercraft to his family, local media reports say.

Dr Alastair Kenneth Senior, 40, died instantly when his hovercraft suffered a mechanical failure, causing a blade to shear off and hit him in the head.

The accident happened at Muriwai Beach, west of Auckland.

Hovercraft experts are assisting police, amid calls for regulation of the hobby to build and run the crafts.

It was reported to be the first time Mr Senior had driven the hovercraft. Police said that the victim had made the vehicle from scratch, possibly using an online design.

Sergeant Colin Nuttall said there had been a "collapse in the structure'' when the accident happened about midday on Sunday, with his partner and a next-door neighbour looking on.

An engineer is now examining to determine what exactly went wrong.

"He took it up there for a test-run. It was the first time he'd tried to drive it, but I'm not sure if it was the first time he'd started it up," said Sgt Nuttall.

"His partner and neighbour were there at the time, they saw it."

Police said anyone could build or fly a hovercraft in New Zealand without a licence.

The newspaper went on to quote a former member of the Hovercraft Club of New Zealand, Ashley Shaw, who said the craft were generally safe.

"To make them, it's a piece of cake. I designed my own," he said.

"Hovercraft are inherently very, very safe and simple devices. They are quite stable."