The search for a telco company boss and his wife has become a recovery mission, with the pair presumed dead after a light plane crashed into the sea off the Waikato coast.
The twin-engine Beechcraft Baron, which was flying from Auckland to Timaru, ditched into the sea near Raglan about 12:30pm yesterday afternoon, after reporting engine failure.
The plane was owned by 2degrees mobile phone company Chief Executive, Eric Hertz, and the company believes he and his wife Kathy were on board.
Plane wreckage and an oil slick were found, but Sergeant Warren Shaw of Waikato Search and Rescue says there has been no sign of the people on board as the search heads into its second day.
“RCCNZ have stated that the area around where the 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,” he says.
Today, the police dive squad will help search the area where the debris was found. Thte water in the area is about 60m deep.
Mr Warren says police have been working with Interpol and the US Consulate in Auckland to keep relatives of the Hertz family informed.
“New Zealand Police would like to convey their sympathies to the family at this time.”
Mr Hertz, an American with 30 years' experience in the telecommunications industry, tried to bring better value to mobile phone users in New Zealand.
Mr Hertz and his wife Kathy died when the Beechcraft Baron plane Mr Hertz was flying crashed off the coast of Waikato yesterday.
The couple were flying to Timaru to visit their daughter, Ari, in Christchurch.
Mr Hertz replaced former chief executive Mike Reynolds at 2degrees Mobile in July 2009.
The former chief operating officer of Western Wireless Corp arrived in New Zealand relishing the opportunity to build a culture in a business trying to shake up the market.
2degrees says it is focusing on supporting Miss Hertz and the wider family.
"Eric and Kathy had lived in many places, but called New Zealand home. They recently gained residency and, through flying, got to see more of New Zealand than many of us will ever see," says the company's director of corporate affairs Mat Bolland.
US Embassy spokesman David Edginton said the embassy had been in contact with New Zealand police and was "actively tracking" the situation.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Eric and Kathy Hertz at this difficult time."
Telecommunications Users' Association (TUANZ) chief executive Paul Brislen paid tribute to the couple, saying Mr Hertz had a massive impact on the telco industry in New Zealand.
"The company has changed the landscape of competition for the New Zealand telecommunications market in an incredibly positive way and we as an industry are all the more poorer for today's news," he said in a blog post.
"Without 2Degrees, we would be facing a duopoly in mobile telecommunications and wouldn't have rollover minutes, shared data or any of the other innovations 2degrees has brought to market."
Mr Brislen said the couple could have "come in, done the job and left for a life back home" in America, but instead became permanent residents and lived life to the full as locals.
"[They] made it a mission to travel and see as much of New Zealand as they could. They were as New Zealand as they could be."
Just days before his death, Mr Hertz told Computerworld he planned to stay in New Zealand for the long haul.
"This is home. It's a wonderful place to live. I've worked and lived in seven different countries and the quality of life here is unequalled. I don't know why people leave," he said.
Mr Hertz also talked of 2degrees' upgrade and expansion plans, dismissing speculating of a float on the stock exchange in the near future, and confirming the company is considering entering the fixed-line market.
Mr Hertz previously worked with the founders of 2degrees' majority shareholders, US investment company Trilogy, at Western Wireless, and also previously headed the board of US mobile media company Zumobi, and held various management roles at AT&T, BellSouth and CellularONE.