Wreck find stirs hopes for many

PILOT: Campbell Montgomerie.
PILOT: Campbell Montgomerie.

Families of aircraft crash victims still missing in Fiordland's rugged terrain say the discovery last week of a helicopter pilot and passenger missing for eight years has renewed some of their own hopes.

Aircraft crash investigators believe the find helps dispels the belief Fiordland is New Zealand's own "Bermuda Triangle".

The wreckage of the Hughes 500 - which went missing in 2004 with pilot Campbell Montgomerie, 27, from Waikato, and his English girlfriend Hannah Timings, 28, on board - was found on Wednesday by Queenstown-based helicopter pilot Brendan Hiatt.

DISAPPEARED: This is thought to be the  last photograph  taken of Hannah Timings, the night before the helicopter she was travelling in with friend Campbell Montgomerie went missing in 2004.
DISAPPEARED: This is thought to be the last photograph taken of Hannah Timings, the night before the helicopter she was travelling in with friend Campbell Montgomerie went missing in 2004.

The crash site was above the Upper Humboldt Creek.

Katie O'Connor, whose father Peter Robertson went missing in 1978, said the latest discovery showed "it can happen".

Robertson, 49, was a passenger in a Cessna 180 ZK-BMP which disappeared during a flight from Big Bay to Riversdale on August 18, 1978. Also on board were pilot Father Cyril Crosbie and passengers Trevor Collins, 50, and Grant Sutherland, 28.

"The grieving process never gets quite completed," O'Connor said.

"I feel peaceful about it [but] I would be much happier if they were found.

"I know if we continue to talk about it, people will continue to remember and look."

O'Connor's sister, Julene McCorkindale, said her ears "pricked up" when she heard the Hughes 500 had been found but she would prefer her father's body stayed where it was, even if located.

Robyn Moynihan said the discovery had brought up some emotions over the disappearance of her son Ryan Moynihan, 23.

Moynihan's Cessna ZK-FMQ disappeared on November 8, 1997.

"Rather than being a Bermuda Triangle, [Fiordland] is just a very difficult place to fly."

Her husband Michael Moynihan said after this past week's discovery he thought, "perhaps there is a hope".

"It will be just pure luck if someone bumps into [Ryan] . . . it would be nice, just to give us a bit of finality," he said.

Westpac search and rescue pilot Darryl Sherwin said the Hughes 500 discovery had inspired him to "do more".

Sherwin recently took a team to search at Mt Peel, where he believes Moynihan went down, but found nothing.

Sherwin said Fiordland did not deserve the tag of a Kiwi "Bermuda Triangle" full of missing aircraft.

"It's just the fact it's rugged, mountainous terrain. The weather matters make for very challenging flying conditions and it's just so remote," he said.

Southern Lakes Helicopters operations manager Lloyd Matheson said there was "always hope" of another discovery.

Matheson has been involved in numerous searches for missing people in Fiordland and said the vegetation could "swallow you up".

A former police sergeant, he also led two 1978 aircraft searches - the Cessna 180 and the Cherokee 6 ZK-EBU flown by Edward James Morrison, 28, which disappeared on a flight from Taieri aerodrome to Preservation Inlet.

"Every time you go out you're still looking," Matheson said.

Gavin Grimmer, who runs the website findlostaircraft.co.nz, said last week's discovery "proves there's no Bermuda Triangle" in Fiordland.

It has already sparked someone to come forward with information on another missing aircraft, he said.

"It suddenly becomes real. People think it's absolutely nothing, but it could be just the piece you are looking for," he said.

Te Anau hobby historian Merv Halliday, who has compiled a list of about 60 missing people in Fiordland in numerous circumstances, said he was pleased to cross two off the list last week.

He said Fiordland looked innocent on a fine day, but could "come to life".

"Deep down it's got a soul about it which can turn very nasty," he said. "It can become very angry very quickly."

Sunday Star Times