Second body recovered from wreckage of 2degrees plane on seabed off Kawhia

News from NZ Police
A second body was yesterday recovered from the wreckage of the crashed 2degrees aircraft on the ocean floor off the Waikato coast.

Waikato Police Operations Manager, Inspector John Kelly, announced the second recovery “with a great deal of satisfaction, tinged with sadness.”

At the same time the Navy was successful in recovering a significant part of the wreckage.

“All staffed involved in the operation, both professional and volunteers, are privileged to have been able to return Eric and Katherine to their family and friends,” said the inspector. The next steps will be a post mortem on both bodies.

Speaking on behalf of the Royal New Zealand Navy, the Commanding Officer of the Operational Dive Team, Lieutenant Commander Trevor Leslie, said yesterday afternoon’s recovery was a fitting conclusion to all the hard work completed by the agencies involved.

“As we saw on Saturday, this recovery wasn’t without its challenges and the Navy is proud to have been able to play its part, alongside the partner agencies involved, in returning both people from the plane to their loved ones.

“Though buoyed by the success, the navy personnel from the ODT and HMNZS Manawanui also recognise this recovery is tinged with sadness and we would like to express our sympathies to their families.”

Mr Kelly said the Police investigation is on behalf of the Coroner. The aircraft will be transported to Auckland by the Navy on behalf of the Civil Aviation Authority where accident investigators will now take charge of the investigation.

“Family and friends of the Hertz’s have been informed of the recovery and expressed their gratitude for the efforts of all the agencies involved.”

News from NZ Police – April 6
One body has been recovered from the wreckage of the 2degrees plan on the ocean floor off Kawhia. Police say this is a significant step but there’s still a lot of work to be done. Navy divers completed five dives on the site today and about noon they recovered one body from the wreckage.

“Because of the sensitivities surrounding this multi-agency operation, Police will not be able to confirm any details until the body has been formally identified,” said district operations manager Inspector John Kelly.

“Police are currently working on behalf of the Coroner in relation to this and the person’s body was bought to shore this afternoon with the assistance of the Coastguard and will be transported to Auckland for a post-mortem examination to be carried out on Monday.”

Commanding officer of the Operational Dive Team (ODT), Lieutenant Commander Trevor Leslie, said the environmental conditions faced by the divers include various sized swells, strong bottom currents and significantly reduced visibility below the surface.

“These conditions, combined with diver entanglement hazards and the inherent risks associated with diving to this depth are just some of the challenges facing the ODT divers”

Both men confirmed that though challenging, the right people with the right resources were on hand to complete the operation successfully.

News from NZ Police – April 5
The safety of all personnel involved, respect for the dead and a desire to return them to their loved ones were the themes at a briefing last night attended by agencies involved in the recovery of the downed aircraft lost off the Waikato coast.

Incident controller, Sergeant Warren Shaw of the Waikato Police Search and Rescue Squad said these three themes are the drivers of the complex multi-agency recovery operation.

“What we’re dealing with is the recovery of two people believed to be inside an aircraft lying on the ocean floor off Gannet Island at a depth of 56m.

“This is near the optimum depth our Navy divers can operate at. However on the plus side they have the right equipment, personnel and experience to ensure a successful conclusion to the operation.”

Mr Shaw said one of the strengths on being able to rely on the Navy’s expertise is that they provide plans and experience to meet a number of contingencies should the need arise.

“Dependent on weather and sea conditions we expect the Navy’s dive support vessel, HMNZS Manawanui, to arrive off the wreck site this morning.

“This vessel will be the focal point of our operation and we are guided by the Navy’s Operational Dive Team on how we will progress our activities but they have stressed to us there are a number of challenges.”

One of those challenges faced by the team is determining if the two occupants of the plane, Eric and Katherine Hertz, remain on board.

“To be able to do this successfully we need to be able to conduct our operation unhindered so we’re asking boaties and masters of vessels to ensure they respect the 500m radius exclusion zone around the crash site off Gannet Island.”

Mr Shaw said while the recovery is going on, local Iwi have placed a Rahui on the area.

“This is a mark of respect for those in the water and requires people to refrain from carrying out any action in that water and is in synergy with the objectives of our operation.

“Because the plane is upside down we haven’t been able to confirm the location of the bodies. To that end Police need to have a range of contingencies in place so in the worst case scenario, if they aren’t, we can locate them.

“Our primary objective is ensuring the safety of all our personnel involved and recovering Mr and Mrs Hertz in an as dignified manner as possible. People can best show their respect and support for the bereaved family by observing the Rahui and the 500m exclusion zone.”

HMNZS Manawanui fact sheet

HMNZS MANAWANUI is the Navy’s dive support vessel. She forms part of the Navy’s Littoral Warfare Support Group and provides an expert platform to support diving and mine counter-measure operations.

The dive support capabilities onboard MANAWANUI include a compression chamber, a diving bell, a 15 ton crane and workshop facilities including electric and gas welding equipment and a lathe. MANAWANUI also has a four point precision anchoring system, allowing her to accurately position herself for underwater operations.

The Navy’s Operational Dive team is often based on MANAWANUI. The team are trained for deep diving using mixed gas breathing apparatus, and are skilled in underwater demolition and unexploded ordnance disposal.

With a range of 5000 nautical miles MANAWANUI can undertake peacekeeping and maritime security missions around the New Zealand coast, South Pacific and South East Asia regions.

Displacement: 911 tonnes
Length: 43.6 metres
Beam: 9.5 metres
Draught: 3.2 metres
Range: 5000 + nautical miles
Crew: 20 personnel


News from NZ Police – April 3
Deteriorating weather and sea states have prevented further confirmatory exploration of the crash site where the upside down wreckage of an aircraft was found yesterday.

Sergeant Warren Shaw of the Waikato Search and Rescue Squad said a mixed team of Police, Navy, CAA, NIWA and Coastguard staff returned to the scene of the wreck this morning but conditions prevented the launch of another Remote Operated Underwater Vehicle (ROV).

“Consequently the Coastguard vessel has returned to Raglan where planning and coordination is continuing with a view of having operational options available for when the Navy’s dive support vessel, HMNZS Manawanui, arrives on Friday.

“Manawanui’s capabilities include a recompression chamber, dive bell, lifting and four point precision anchoring which will be invaluable to the recovery team and she will also embark a detachment of Navy Operational Divers to assist in the search.”

With inclement weather and sea conditions likely to continue tomorrow Mr Shaw said this will provide an opportunity for the multi-agency team to plan, consolidate and carry out logistical tasks.

News from NZ Police – April 2
A multi-agency operation seeking to locate and recover a missing plane and its two occupants has been able to confirm a large object detected by sonar yesterday, is in fact the aircraft.

Officer in charge of Operation Jareth, Sergeant Warren Shaw, of the Waikato Police Search and Rescue Squad said today’s activities have centred around confirming information supplied by the Navy’s Mine Countermeasures Team and their ocean mapping equipment.

“Once we were able to identify the item of interest it meant we could narrow our search field considerably and deploy even more specialised equipment to the crash site.

“A team from the Police, Navy and a Civil Aviation Authority Crash Investigator boarded the Raglan Coastguard’s Gallagher Rescue vessel at first light and headed out to the scene and this afternoon confirmation came back that the Remote Operated Underwater Vehicle (ROUV) had captured images of the aircraft.”

Mr Shaw said while this was a success it was but a small step in the overall recovery operation and wasn’t without its challenges.

“What the ROUV has shown us is that the aircraft is upside down at a depth of 56m on the ocean floor which means the agencies involved have not being able to confirm if the occupants, Mr and Mrs Hertz, are on board or not.”

Civil Aviation Authority spokesman Mike Richards said the CAA is supporting the work of the Police at this time by providing an aviation expert who is helping to identify parts of the aircraft found on the seafloor.

“With the aircraft being upside down, fully submerged and bedded in the ocean floor, it is quite a difficult task to make sense of the visual images that are being relayed to the team on the surface.

“The Police and Navy are working closely on options to retrieve the occupants. Once this is done the CAA can start considering ways to carry out the investigation as to establishing possible cause or causes of the accident. The coordinated efforts of the agencies involved are both substantial and remarkable.”

Mr Shaw said while difficult, the challenges faced by the agencies involved are not insurmountable.

“We have the right people and equipment on hand, both in Raglan and elsewhere available to deploy and each agency remains committed to returning the missing couple back to their family.”


News from NZ Police – April 1
As the search for the ditched light aircraft with two people on board heads into its third day, Sergeant Warren Shaw of the Waikato Police Search and Rescue Squad said while debris from the crashed Beechcraft Baron and an oil slick have been found, the plane has not been located.

“At the time the debris was found a buoy was deployed to guide searchers back to the site and to use as a starting point for locating the aircraft.

“Specialist Police Divers then travelled to the site yesterday and began mapping areas of the ocean floor around the buoy.”

Mr Shaw said that search did not locate the aircraft and today Police divers, working in conjunction with Mine Countermeasures staff and divers from the Royal New Zealand Navy would return to the site aboard the Coastguard’s Raglan based Gallagher Rescue vessel.

“The Navy provides us with considerable experience in such operations and the Mine Countermeasures staff will prove crucial in mapping out the search. They bring with them a number of unmanned submersible devices that can assist in this and it is only when the aircraft has been pinpointed that we would consider putting any divers in the water.

“One of the major challenges we are facing is that we are dealing with an aircraft that has potentially impacted with the water at high speed and broken up. To compound things further there is the potential for objects that come to the surface to drift up to 5km a day due to surface currents.”

What this means is that though a starting point has been established, the location of the aircraft could be a considerable distance away and it may be some time before any wreckage is located.

“We of course hope that we locate the aircraft and its occupants today but even if it was the case the wreckage would be at a depth near the edge of the operating capacity of the resources at hand and Police are thus relying heavily on the expertise of the navy and their experience in this field.”

Mr Shaw said that while much of the search operation would be technology based the public have a part to play as well.

“Today we will also conduct shoreline searches via helicopter while the marine search is ongoing.

“At the same time we would ask boaties, coastal landowners and beach goers to keep an eye out for anything unusual and if you spot anything make contact with Police either via 111 or through the Crime Reporting Line on 07 858 6200.”

News from NZ Police – March 31
As the search for a missing light aircraft with two people on board heads into its second day, Waikato Police say their activities have moved from an initial rescue focused operation to one of recovery.

Head of the recovery operation, Sergeant Warren Shaw, of Waikato Search and Rescue said that while Saturday’s search was a rescue focused operation the incident had been led by the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ). When vessels returned last night, the operation switched to one of recovery and was handed to NZ Police to coordinate.

“RCCNZ have stated that the area around where debris and oil was found was extensively searched and that had the two occupants of the twin engined Beechcraft Baron been on the surface, they would have been found.

“That search involved two helicopters and a fixed wing aircraft as well as a Raglan based Coastguard vessel. Today Police divers will be loading specialist equipment on a rescue vessel at Raglan Wharf with a view of heading out to the crash scene to conduct a reconnaissance around midday.”

Police have worked through Interpol to contact the family of the two people believed to have been on board the aircraft when it reported engine trouble and ditched into the sea off Gannet Island.

The two occupants are believed to be the aircraft’s owner, 58-year-old Eric Bennett Hertz and his 64-year old wife, Katherine Picone Hertz. The couple were US citizens who both had NZ residency.

“Officers worked overnight with colleagues in Interpol and the US Consulate in Auckland to ensure relatives in the United States were informed while staff here located the couple’s daughter. New Zealand Police would like to convey their sympathies to the family at this time.”

News from 2degrees – March 30
A plane involved in a crash near Kawhia this afternoon was owned by our CEO Eric Hertz. Although we have limited information, we understand that Eric and his wife Kathy were on board and that they are unlikely to have survived.

Our focus now is to support Eric and Kathy’s daughter and provide assistance to their family.

We are deeply appreciative of the calls and messages we have had this afternoon, and when it’s possible to make a further statement we will do so.

News from NZ Police – March 30
With vessels returning to shore following a search for the two occupants of plane that ditched in the ocean off Kawhia this afternoon, Waikato Police say their operation will resume again at first light.

Incident controller Sergeant Warren Shaw of the Waikato Search and Rescue Squad said two helicopters and a fixed wing aircraft had been used to search for the pair as well as the Raglan Coastguard vessel.

“The search began about 12.20pm after a twin engined Beechcraft Baron aircraft ditched in the ocean near Gannet Island about 20km north west of the entrance to Kawhia Harbour.

“The Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) tasked a helicopter from Auckland to search the last known position of the aircraft and this search identified an oil slick and wreckage near Gannet Island.”

Mr Shaw said the Coastguard vessel arrived at the scene and began recovering debris but there was no sign of the aircraft’s two occupants.

“The vessel returned to shore at last light and we will look to resume the operation tomorrow morning.

“Part of tomorrow’s operation will involve the Wellington based Police Dive Squad conducting a search of the area where the debris was located.”

Emergency call after plane ditches in sea