The pilot of a rescue helicopter first on the scene of a light plane crash near Hastings says the wreckage appeared to be in one piece.
Two men died when the plane crashed into the Ngaruroro River, near Maraekakaho, on Sunday. They were Christopher Rawlings, 48, of Clive, and Christopher Howell, 46, of the United Kingdom.
Lowe Corporation Rescue Helicopter pilot Jeremy Bruce says when he spotted the Tomahawk plane, it was nose down in the middle of the river with its tail in the air.
He landed nearby and paramedics had to wade through about a metre of water to get to the wreckage, where they found the bodies of the pilot and passenger.
Mr Bruce says there was no road access, making the recovery operation very difficult.
Police say another plane spotted the crashed aircraft near State Highway 50, near the small settlement of Maraekakaho, on Sunday morning.
The plane was owned by Hawke's Bay and East Coast Aero Club at Bridge Pa, Hastings. Police say it was understood to have been practising low flying in the area.
Police eastern district communications manager Kris McGehan says it is not clear what caused the crash.
The Civil Aviation Authority is investigating.