Fifteen people from New Zealand died when an Air Force Catalina flying-boat crashed into the sea off Fiji in 1943 during World War II.
It was the deadliest New Zealand plane crash to that date, surpassing the toll of six nearly a year earlier when one of the country's top military men was in a Hudson bomber that disappeared without trace.
The Catalina was reported missing on a sea flight on Saturday, June 5, 1943.
Wreckage from the plane was found at Dravuni Island, about 80km south of Suva, Fiji. The 15 men who had been on the plane were deemed "missing, believed killed".
"Never before," the Herald wrote at the time, "have so many men been in a New Zealand aircraft which has been reported missing, either at sea or as the result of misadventure over the land."
"The only other New Zealand service aircraft which has been reported missing since large numbers of men began to be flown over ocean routes as a result of the war spreading to the Pacific was the machine in which Major-General O. H. Mead, CBE, DSO, lost his life last July."
Owen Mead, 50, was the Pacific commander of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force.
Explosion and puff of smoke before bomber hits the water
He was being flown from Fiji to Tonga in a Royal New Zealand Air Force Hudson, which never arrived. No wreckage or trace of survivors was found after the plane's disappearance on July 25, 1942.
The men who disappeared with Mead were Lieutenant J. C. Leslie, Flying Officer D. A. Anderson, Pilot Officer C. G. Ibbotson, Sergeant R. H. W. Wybourne and Leading Aircraftman A. N. Clayton.
The following year, speaking about the loss of the Catalina, Prime Minister Peter Fraser sought to reassure wartime New Zealand.
"All possible action has been taken to find survivors," he said. "Sea and air searches have been most thorough, but unfortunately no trace of the crew or passengers has been found.
"An official inquiry has been held in Fiji … and the findings show that the aircraft was in sound condition when it left for New Zealand and that the accident can in no way be attributable to any action or negligence on the part of the shore organisation. The loading of the aircraft was well below the maximum permissible.
"It is clear from the established facts that the flying-boat struck the sea during darkness and was broken by the impact, but there was no evidence to show the primary cause of the accident.
"The crew were highly competent and experienced and the captain of the flying-boat, Squadron Leader McGregor, was regarded as one of the most capable and expert pilots in the Air Force."
"The record of our reconnaissance squadrons for reliability has been of the highest, and the lost flying-boat, only recently flown out from America by a New Zealand crew, was in first class condition and of modern design."
The flying-boat had a crew of seven and carried eight passengers, six of whom were members of the RNZAF.
The crew were Squadron Leader R. B. L. McGregor, Flying Officer J. E. Morison, Pilot Officer D. E. Wood, Flight Officer G. M. Adie, Flight Sergeant B. A. G. Bond, Leading Aircraftman H. A. G. McGregor, and Leading Aircraftman I. J. Waldie.
The passengers were: Flight Lieutenant M. W. McCormick, Flight Lieutenant J. R. M. Nicholson, Flying Officer A. E. W. Bradmore, Sergeant H. M. Kennedy, Leading Aircraftman M. A. Puddle, Leading Aircraftman J. W. Russell, Captain N. J. Paltridge, of the National Patriotic Fund Board, and M. J. Scott, of the Agriculture Department.