The body of a diver who went missing while exploring a World War II wreck off the Northland coast was finally recovered 10 days later.

On March 15, the man failed to surface from diving the trans-Pacific liner Niagara which is more than 100 metres underwater.

The wreck lies some 40km off Marsden Pt where it was sunk by German mines in 1940.

The man's dive buddy made it 65m underwater in an effort to save him, but was unsuccessful.


The friend called for help on marine radio, sparking a search of the area by the Coast Guard and HMNZS Wellington.

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Police say the missing diver's body was recovered on March 25 thanks to its joint work with Customs and the Defence Force.

Northland SAR co-ordinator Sergeant Shane Turner told Ten One Magazine when the diver hadn't been found within 24 hours he knew he was probably looking at a recovery operation rather than a rescue.

"It didn't look good," Turner told the magazine.

"We notified the family and started planning for a recovery operation as it was likely he would be at a depth of 100 metres or more.

"At this point we contacted the Police National Dive Squad [PNDS] which co-ordinated with Joint Forces New Zealand and the Royal New Zealand Navy.

"Police and Navy can't dive at this depth so we have to use Police sonar and Navy equipment and expertise."


A team of 16 people from the across the three agencies spent a week working up a plan and waiting out the tail end of a cyclone.

Weather conditions seemed to be improving on March 24 but 21-knot winds and 1.4-metre swells forced them back.

The next day another attempt was made in improved weather and the man's body was recovered.

"The depth made it a challenging job, but the whole team was pleased to at least be able to recover a family member, friend and colleague's body," Turner told the magazine.

"We could not have done it without the help of the Navy, Customs and our dive team."

Supervising Customs officer Nick Sparey told Ten One Magazine the Hawk V was able to hold its position precisely over the wreck for more than nine hours, allowing police divers to safely deploy.

"I met some of the friends and family of the diver and they were really appreciative of the efforts of all the agencies and Defence Force units involved in the recovery," he said.

The vessel's skipper Scott Jones told the magazine it was good to be able to give the family and friends some closure in the recovery of their loved one.

Senior Sergeant Bruce Adams, the officer in charge of the Police National Dive Squad, echoed that sentiment.

"We really appreciated the understanding of family and friends who recognised the technical difficulties and had to deal with the delays caused by bad weather," Adams said.

"We are only sorry it wasn't a better outcome for the diver, his whānau and friends."

An investigation is seeking to establish the cause of the tragedy, which will then be subject to a Coroner's investigation.