5 Apr 2013

Navy divers view plane crash wreckage

10:04 pm on 5 April 2013

Navy divers have gone down to view the wreckage of a light plane that crashed off the coast of Waikato near Raglan.

The bodies of 2degrees chief executive Eric Hertz, 58, and his wife Kathy Hertz, 64, are presumed to be on board the twin-engined Beechcraft Baron on the sea bed at a depth of 56 metres, about 20km off the coast.

Inspector John Kelly.

Inspector John Kelly. Photo: RNZ

The American couple who had New Zealand residency had taken off from Ardmore, near Auckland, bound for Timaru in South Canterbury to visit their adult daughter and crashed on 30 March.

On Friday afternoon, a Coastguard vessel from Raglan transferred the Navy dive team to HMNZS Manawanui which arrived off the crash site in the morning.

Police say the dive to explore the wreckage was expected to take about two hours and information will then be sent to the incident management team.

Inspector John Kelly, of Waikato, said decisions would then be made on what is the next step to retrieve the bodies.

Police say the primary objective is to recover Mr and Mrs Hertz in as dignified a manner as possible using specialist equipment on the Manawanui. The depth of the wreck is near the maximum level Navy divers can operate at.

Mr Kelly said it is a complex operation that may take some time.

A 500-metre exclusion zone is in place and a local Maori tribe has placed a rahui (restriction) on the area.