It took nearly a week to find an NAC plane that slammed into Mt Ruapehu in 1948, killing 13 people.

Now the tragedy is to be relived as an episode in an upcoming television series - Descent from Disaster - which will screen on TV1 in the middle of the year.

The man behind the series, producer/director Ross Peebles said he had lots of information of the Ruapehu disaster, but he wanted to hear from people who remembered it and were involved in some way.

The horrific accident happened on Saturday, October 23, when the Lockheed Electra plane owned by the National Airways Corporation left Palmerston North airport for Hamilton. Max Hare was an experienced pilot, Brian Russell was his co-pilot, and they had a full plane with 11 passengers.


As they left Palmerston North, the weather was deteriorating. Their last radio message, at 1.38pm, had them near Wanganui and climbing in heavy rain and cloud.

They were due in Hamilton at 2.50pm and the alarm was quickly raised when they did not arrive.

A massive land and air search followed, Mr Peebles said. It was complicated by bad weather, conflicting witness reports and the wide area in which the plane could have crashed.

The search spread from Wanganui across Taranaki, Taupo and Waikato, but the first real lead came when three deer hunters emerged from the bush at Horopito. They thought they had heard the crash.

The downed plane was finally spotted from the air nearly a week after it had taken off. It was on the western side of the mountain, above the snowline and about 600m below the summit.

All 13 appeared to have died on impact, and were either in or near the wreckage.

There were no "black boxes" recording what happened on board in those days, but it appeared the plane had hit a ridge at 250km/h. One engine and a wing broke off, and the rest fell back into a gully.

There was an official inquiry into the accident and the cause was deemed to be pilot error, though weather conditions and lack of radio coverage could also have been factors.

The remains of the wreckage are still on the mountain, but it's a remote site. The closest most people get is a memorial plaque on the road to the Turoa ski area.

* If you have any connection to the search or recovery, please contact the Chronicle on 06 3490710 or Mr Peebles on