Diver almost dies on mission

By Kiri Gillespie

A Royal New Zealand Navy diver from Papamoa who nearly drowned while trying to retrieve the wreckage of the plane in which 2degrees boss Eric Hertz and his wife died has spoken of his experience.

Able Diver Alan Holland was among a group of eight Navy divers tasked with bringing the bodies of Mr Hertz and wife Kathy and the wreckage back to shore after the aircraft crashed into the sea near Kawhia four weeks ago.

The 22-year-old has been with the Navy for about four years and was based in Auckland.

When sonar equipment revealed the wreckage was about 60m deep, lying on the sea floor, Mr Holland and his diving team were asked to help.

"We were tasked to go retrieve it, put on strops and that sort of stuff," Mr Holland said.

The diving team had nearly reached the wreckage when things went wrong: "We were at 55m and once were down there and the gear failed. My helmet just flooded. "I got water in my mask and from there I had to come off the breathing [apparatus] and go into a secondary unit. From there, I was unconscious.

"Yeah, it was a bit scary, I guess, but I didn't really think about it at the time. I was just thinking about what I had to do. My training kicked in and I did what I had to do, really."

Monitored radio communication among the diving team meant Mr Holland's diving partner was quick to come to his aid and helped take the former Te Puke High School student to the surface. "I wasn't really conscious when I came up, so I don't really remember too much."

Mr Holland said it was still unknown what happened to his gear, with an internal investigation into the incident going.

"All I know is my gear failed."

Mr Holland was taken to Auckland Hospital and discharged the next day.

He said rumours that he'd suffered the bends were untrue but doctors had been unable to offer any distinct diagnosis.

"It's like a near-drowning, then again it's hard to say."

Mr Holland said he did not remember much of what happened once the water came rushing in.

He is now back on deck with the Navy, but on light duties until further notice.

Mr and Mrs Hertz's bodies and the plane wreckage were recovered last week.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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