Object in sea confirmed as crashed plane
Tuesday 2 Apr 2013 2:09 p.m.
A large object found by sonar equipment in the sea off Kawhia has been confirmed as the crashed plane belonging to 2degrees chief executive Eric Hertz and his wife Kathy.
The twin-engine Beechcraft Baron owned by Mr Hertz ditched in the sea off Kawhia, southwest of Hamilton, about 12.30pm on Saturday after reporting engine failure.
An autonomous underwater vehicle provided by the navy's mine countermeasures team mapped out a 1000 square metre area yesterday and was able to identify what police labelled "a large object of interest".
Police headed back to the scene today to deploy a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROUV) and it has since been confirmed that the object was the aircraft.
Sergeant Warren Shaw of Waikato police says that while this is a success, it is just a small step in the overall recovery operation.
"What the ROUV has shown us is that the aircraft is upside down at a depth of 56m on the ocean floor which means the agencies involved have not been able to confirm if the occupants, Mr and Mrs Hertz, are on board or not," he said.
Civil Aviation Authority spokesman Mike Richards says an aviation expert is helping police identify parts of the aircraft found on the seafloor.
"With the aircraft being upside down, fully submerged and bedded in the ocean floor, it is quite a difficult task to make sense of the visual images that are being relayed to the team on the surface," he said.
The police and navy are working together on options to retrieve the couple's bodies.
The couple, who were American citizens with New Zealand residency, had been travelling from Ardmore in Auckland to Timaru, and planned to visit their daughter, Ari, in Christchurch.
The plane radioed Airways New Zealand to report engine failure shortly before radar contact was lost.