UPDATE April 7 / Navy divers located a second body from the crashed plane of Eric and Kathy Hertz around 3.30pm this afternoon.
The body was recovered as navy dive support vessel HMNZS Manawanui used its crane to retrieve a section of the crashed plane.
The couple's family released a statement shortly before 6pm, saying:
"The recovery of Eric and Kathy, along with the wreckage of the aircraft is of immense relief to us all. 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.
"We would like to acknowledge the determination of these people in pursuing such a difficult recovery.
"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."
Plane to be handed over to CAA
Waikato Police Operations Manager Inspector John Kelly says the next steps would see the body transported to Auckland where a post mortem on both bodies recovered will take place.
Speaking on behalf of the Royal New Zealand Navy the Commanding Officer of the Operational Dive Team, Lieutenant Commander Trevor Leslie said this afternoon's recovery was a fitting conclusion to all the hard work completed by the agencies involved.
"As we saw yesterday 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 itself 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.
Body recovered from Hertz plane
UPDATE April 6 / Navy divers recovered a body from the crashed plane of Eric and Kathy Hertz at noon today - almost exactly a week after the couple's twin-engine Beechcraft Baron ditched 20km off the Raglan coast.
District operations manager Inspector John Kelly says police won't release a name until the body is formally identified tomorrow night. The body has been taken to Auckland for a post mortem that will be carried out on Monday.
Inspector Kelly says conditions and visibility are poor. It is still uncertain if a second body is trapped in the plane, which sits upside down under 56m of water.
Navy divers completed five dives on the site.
Underlining the difficult conditions faced by the rescue team, one diver was injured while working on the wreckage. The diver was medically evacuated to Auckland as a precaution.
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.
The situation is complicated by the fact the plane is no longer in one piece.
"From sonar imagery we were able to locate the aircraft but the initial dive revealed the aircraft is not intact, presenting us with a number of challenges," Inspector Kelly said. "These are well trained guys ... they enjoy the work but also know the risks."
Navy dive vessel arrives at Hertz crash site; police ask boaties to back off
UPDATE / April 5: As navy dive support vessel HMNZS Manawanui arrives at the Eric and Kathy Hertz plane crash scene 20km off the Raglan coat, police are asking boaties to back off.
A test dive is being carried out after a morning swell prevented earlier efforts.
Incident controller, Sergeant Warren Shaw says, "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."
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," Sergeant Shaw says.
Mr Shaw said while the recovery is going on, local Iwi have placed a "rahui" on the area - a form of tapu that restricts access to an area by unauthorised persons (2degrees developed iwi ties through buying spectrum from minority shareholder the Hautaki Trust and has two iwi directors - Anthony Royal and Bill Osborne).
"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," Sergeant Shaw says.
The Manawanui includes a recompression chamber, dive bell, lifting and four-point precision anchoring, which is expected to allow the recovery operation to resume even if bad weather continues.
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
UPDATE / April 3: Deteriorating weather conditions have prevented further exploration of Eric and Kathy Hertz small plane, which lies upside down under 56m of water off the Raglan coast.
Sergeant Warren Shaw of the Waikato Search and Rescue Squad says 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 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."
Police find Eric Hertz' plane
April 2, 5.45pm: Police have confirmed the sonar image detected yesterday, and released earlier today (right) is of the light aircraft owned by 2degrees CEO Eric Hertz.
The twin-engine Beechcraft Baron is lying upside-down under 56m of water.
Police have yet to establish if the aircraft contains the bodies of Mr Hertz and his wife Kathy, who are presumed dead after the plane reported engine trouble then ditched around 12.20pm Saturday.
The officer in charge of Operation Jareth, Sergeant Warren Shaw, of the Waikato Police Search and Rescue Squad, says today's activities have centred around confirming information supplied by the Navy's Mine Countermeasures Team and their ocean mapping equipment.
"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."
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.
"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 Richads says.
While difficult, the challenges faced by the agencies involved are not insurmountable, Sergeant Shaw says.
"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."
April 2 / EARLIER: "A large object of interest" has been identified by the effort to sonar map the seabed around the area where a small plane belonging to 2degrees CEO Eric Hertz and his wife Kathy crash-landed midday Saturday.
Police have released an image of the object (above right).
Sergeant Warren Shaw of the Waikato Police's Search and Rescue Squad said an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) provided by the Royal New Zealand Navy's Mine Countermeasures Team had been used yesterday to map out an area of 1000m square.
"This torpedo like device, known as the Remus 100, collected data from the ocean floor which enabled us to build up a picture of what was down there and identify a large object of interest.
"This in turn enabled us to focus our attentions on a particular area of ocean and this morning at first light a multi-agency team comprising of Police, Raglan Coastguard, Navy personnel and a crash investigator headed back out to the scene off Gannet Rock where they deployed a Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicle or ROV."
Officer Commanding the Navy's Mine Countermeasures Team, Warrant Officer James Harper, said the ROV was a device that enabled images to be taken of the object of interest that will confirm if it is the aircraft or not.
"We're fortunate that the equipment and expertise available is world leading and we have experience in this type of operation so we'll be doing our best to identify the object that has been found."
Mr Shaw said the focus for the combined team is identifying what the object found at 56m below the surface is and locating and returning the bodies of the plane's occupants to their loved ones.
April 1: Waikato Police say they are still searching for the light aircraft that crashed around 12.20pm Saturday with 2degrees CEO Eric Hertz and his wife Kathy onboard.
As day three of the search begins, a Navy Mine Countermeasures team is using a torpedo-shaped remote-operated vehicle to map areas of the sea floor around the crash area.
Police believe the couple's bodies are still inside the aircraft, which sunk after ditching 20km off the Waikato coast near Raglan. Engine trouble was reported shortly before the crash.
Navy and police divers are also on the scene, but will not be deployed until the sonar search locates the aircraft.
Operation head Sergeant Warren Shaw of the Waikato Police Search and Rescue Squad says while debris from the crashed Beechcraft Baron and an oil slick had been located, the actual plane had not.
"At the time the debris was found [on Saturday] a buoy was deployed to guide searchers back to the site and to use as a starting point for locating the aircraft," Sergeant Shaw says.
Specialist police divers then travelled to the site yesterday and began mapping areas of the ocean floor around the buoy.
"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," Sergeant Shaw says.
"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 actual 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."
Appeal to public
Mr Shaw says 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."
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