Searchers are continuing to scour the Kapiti Coast between Paraparaumu Beach and Peka Peka for two men on board a freight plane which crashed in the area last night.
The two missing men are the pilot, Barry Crowley, aged 57, of Kaiapoi, Christchurch, and colleague Paul Miller, 50, of Auckland, who has recently been based in Christchurch. The men were operating the Parcel Line Express freight service and had left Christchurch at 8.30 last night on a routine flight to Palmerston North.
Senior Sergeant Mike Coleman, Kapiti Police, says some wreckage of the Convair plane has been found at Peka Peka, near the beach, and other wreckage along with courier bags and parcel freight has been found in the water or washed up on the shoreline.
"We donâ€™t know exactly what happened to the flight but the weather was appalling last night with low visibility, driving rain and strong winds," Mr Coleman says.
Ohakea air control lost radar contact with the plane around 9.30pm. Mr Coleman says it appears the plane turned back in the Peka Peka area and residents reported hearing low flying and a sound like thunder. There was also a strong smell of aviation fuel from Paraparaumu Beach north up the coast.
An Air Force Iroquois, supported by a fixed wing aircraft, searched until 3am. Kapiti Coastguard and the Waikanae Boating Club searched the coast while police and search volunteers scoured the beaches and neighbouring coastal land. Police patrols continued the search throughout the night.
Mr Coleman says the main search started again at first light this morning and 14 4WD vehicles from local people are being used to search the foreshore. Thirty Search and Rescue personnel were due out again by 8am to comb beaches and land. A fixed wing aircraft is also up, taking advantage of a small break in the weather, and the Iroquois is on standby.
Mr Coleman says the seas are still very rough, and while there has been intermittent rain early this morning, a cold front is expected through the area shortly.
An air accident investigator is expected to arrive on the Kapiti Coast later in the morning.
The region is affected by a civil defence emergency caused by massive slips on State Highway 1 at Paekakariki, with major rail and road links cut. The road is only open at present to heavy trucks and 4WD vehicles.