Rebecca Quilliam

Rebecca Quilliam is senior reporter at the NZME. News Service office in Wellington.

Plane crash: Police to decide on underwater operation

Sonar images have mapped where the twin engine Beechcraft Baron was lying near Gannet Island. Image / Supplied
Sonar images have mapped where the twin engine Beechcraft Baron was lying near Gannet Island. Image / Supplied

Police will decide whether the wreck of the plane belonging to the 2degrees' chief executive Eric Hertz will be recovered from the seabed off the Waikato coast, the Navy says.

Deteriorating weather is delaying further exploration of the plane wreckage believed to be holding the bodies of Mr Hertz and his wife Kathy. The plane is lying upside-down about 56 metres below the surface.

The Navy's dive support vessel, HMNZS Manawanui, is due to arrive at the site tomorrow.

The vessel's commanding officer Lieutenant Commander Kerry Driver said conditions were expected to improve from Saturday.

"But really, we're going to get down to the area and assess the weather conditions in consultation with the police and the dive squad," he told Radio New Zealand today.

He said there would have to be further investigation on whether they would be able to lift the plane from the seabed.

"We'll still need to have divers investigate the scene, but really we're just here to support the New Zealand police."

It would be a police decision of whether an underwater operation would be able to be carried out, he said.

The vessel had a recompression chamber, which would be needed because of the depth the divers would go to. Commander Driver described the depth as being on the limit of the drivers' capabilities.

There was also a crane on board which could lift the aircraft from the seabed.

"Whether or not we do any aircraft recovery will be up to the New Zealand police."

Sonar images have mapped where the twin engine Beechcraft Baron was lying near Gannet Island.

CAA spokesman Mike Richards once police and Navy had completed recovery options to retrieve the bodies, the CAA would start considering ways to carry out the investigation as to establishing a possible cause or causes of the accident.

The couple had been on their way to visit their daughter in Dunedin when their plane ditched at high speed on Saturday.

Their families yesterday said thank you for the support they had received.

"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," the family said in a statement.

"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."

- APNZ

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