Crash victim families thank New Zealand
Police asked the navy for help recovering the aircraft
The families of Eric and Kathy have released a statement thanking New Zealanders for their support as navy dive support ship HMNZS Manawanui heads to the Waikato coast to help police efforts in the recovery of the crashed plane belonging to 2degrees chief executive Hertz and his wife.
"Knowing that they both touched so many lives in a positive way is a profound reminder of how much they meant to us in our own lives. We are comforted and proud to know they were not just beloved in our families, but also integral and engaged members of the community they loved in New Zealand," the statement reads.
"The Hertz and Picone families want to express our most sincere appreciation for the energy and love offered by the community in Auckland, Seattle and around the world."
The Manawanui is leaving Devonport this morning and is expected to arrive off Kawhia on Friday morning, after police asked the navy for help in recovering the aircraft.
The twin-engine Beechcraft Baron owned by Mr Hertz ditched in the sea off Kawhia, southwest of Hamilton, on Saturday.
The aircraft wreckage is sitting on the seafloor, upside down, at a depth of 56m.
Manawanui is fitted with a triple lock compression chamber, a wet diving bell and a 15-tonne crane. Its four anchors also mean it can anchor precisely in one spot.
Navy spokeswoman Lieutenant Commander Vicki Rendall says navy divers can dive to as deep as 54m. The aircraft was just two metres deeper but that was enough to make all the difference for divers, she told NZ Newswire.
The navy dive experts would offer police their best advice on how to carry out any recovery of bodies or wreckage, but it would be up to police to decide on the best options, she said.
Mr and Mrs Hertz, 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.
Mr Hertz, who had worked for a number of United States telecommunications companies, came to New Zealand to take up the chief executive role with 2degrees in 2009, shortly before it launched. 2degrees surprised rivals by hitting the million customer mark within three years.
Stewart Sherriff, the chairman of 2degrees' American majority owner, Trilogy International Partners, has taken over as the company's interim chief executive.