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
"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
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.