Search for ditched aircraft off Kawhia coast now a recovery operation

Search for ditched aircraft off Kawhia coast now a recovery operation

National News

Plane ditching off Kawhia coast, release II

As the search for a missing light aircraft with two people on board heads into its second day, Waikato Police say their activities have moved from an initial rescue focused operation to one of recovery.

Head of the recovery operation, Sergeant Warren Shaw, of Waikato Search and Rescue said that while yesterday's search was a rescue focused operation the incident had been led by the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ).

When vessels returned at last light the operation switched to one of recovery and was handed to NZ Police to coordinate.

"RCCNZ have stated that the area around where debris and oil was found was extensively searched and that had the two occupants of the twin engined Beechcraft Baron been on the surface, they would have been found.

"That search involved two helicopters and a fixed wing aircraft as well as a Raglan based Coastguard vessel. Today Police Divers are loading specialist equipment on a rescue vessel at Raglan Wharf with a view of heading out to the crash scene to conduct a reconnaissance around midday."

Overnight Police have worked through Interpol to contact the family of the two people believed to have been on board the aircraft when it reported engine trouble and ditched into the sea off Gannet Island.

"The two occupants are believed to be the aircraft's owner, 58-year-old Eric Bennett Hertz and his 64-year old wife, Katherine Picone Hertz. The couple were US citizens who both had NZ residency.

"Officers worked overnight with colleagues in Interpol and the US Consulate in Auckland to ensure relatives in the United States were informed while staff here located the couple's daughter. New Zealand Police would like to convey their sympathies to the family at this time."

Waikato Police will hold a media conference in relation to today's operation at the Raglan Police Station on Wi Neera St at 2.30pm.