Tributes pour in as bodies of Hertz couple retrieved

By Morgan Tait, APNZ

Eric and Kathy Hertz were killed when their light aircraft ditched at high speed off the Kawhia coast. Photo / Supplied
Eric and Kathy Hertz were killed when their light aircraft ditched at high speed off the Kawhia coast. Photo / Supplied

The chief executive of 2degrees, killed with his wife when their light plane crashed off the Waikato coast on March 30, has been described as an "unbelievable brother and selfless friend".

Eric and Kathy Hertz were killed when their plane ditched at high speed off the Kawhia coast. Royal New Zealand Navy divers recovered the second of two bodies yesterday afternoon.

The families of the American couple, who had made New Zealand home with their adult daughter Ari, said it was an "immense relief" the recovery was successful.

Mr Hertz's younger brother Marc described his brother's strength and friendship. "He was the strong and noble one. An unbelievable brother and selfless friend," he wrote on his Facebook page.

Friends also paid tribute to the couple online and offered support to the family.

Jack Naus said: "My heart and prayers go out to you and your family, Eric was always a kind, gentle man, and part of a wonderful family."

The family praised the recovery effort.

"Knowing that they can rest together in peace and that we can say our farewells is of huge comfort at this time.

"By safely recovering the aircraft, despite such challenging conditions and without serious injury to those involved, the rescue authorities have made a huge contribution to us and the wider aviation community.

"We can now look forward to one day understanding what happened."

The family were particularly impressed by the "determination" of those involved in the recovery operation.

"We hope the community of New Zealand does not need the services of these extremely committed people, but can assure them that if they do then there is a remarkable team ready to act in such testing times."

One body was brought up from the upturned plane wreckage 56 metres below the surface on Saturday and a second body was retrieved yesterday.

Waikato police operations manager Inspector John Kelly said it was with a great deal of satisfaction, tinged with sadness, that he announced the successful recovery of the second body.

"At the same time the Navy has been successful in recovering a significant part of the wreckage. All staff involved in the operation, both professional and volunteers, are privileged to have been able to return Eric and Katherine to their family and friends."

The bodies would undergo post-mortem examinations in Auckland.

The remains of the Beechcraft plane would travel by sea to Auckland on the deck of the HMNZS Manawanui over the next 48 hours accompanied by a CAA safety investigator.

"The wreckage will be held in a secure workshop at the Navy base at Devonport for 72 hours and will be cleaned of saltwater or other debris from the ocean floor and will be closely examined for any initial signs of non-impact mechanical failure or other damage," CAA spokesman Mike Richards said.

"The incredible effort of the police and Navy has given us a much better opportunity to piece together what happened last Saturday," he said.

After the initial 72 hours of examination, the wreckage would be moved to the CAA's secure workshop in Lower Hutt where a detailed examination would continue.

There were three CAA investigators working on the accident.

"Essentially there are three components to the investigation: the man, the machine and the environment."

- NZ Herald

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