Object found in search for ditched plane

THE WRECK: Eric Hertz's plane was found 56 metres below the ocean surface.
THE WRECK: Eric Hertz's plane was found 56 metres below the ocean surface.

The search for wreckage of a plane that ditched into the ocean off the Raglan coast on Saturday may be over.

Eric Bennett Hertz, 58, and Katherine Picone Hertz, 64, were in their twin-engine Beechcraft Baron when it plunged into the sea off Kawhia Harbour.

Hertz, who was an American with New Zealand residency, was chief executive of the mobile phone company 2degrees. His wife, also a resident, was involved with Maori and Pacific education at Auckland University of Technology (AUT).

Both of their bodies are believed to have been trapped inside the downed plane, the location of which had not been pinpointed. There have been no bodies seen in the water since the arrival at the scene of the first aircraft, 20 minutes after the crash.

However, police confirmed this afternoon they had found an object of interest on the sea floor near Gannet Island. The object was sitting in 56m of water.

Sergeant Warren Shaw of the Waikato polices search and rescue squad said a navy autonomous underwater vehicle yesterday mapped out a kilometre-square area around the crash site.

"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."

At first light a crash investigator joined police, the coastguard and navy personnel at the scene, off Gannet Rock.

More mapping using an underwater vehicle was carried out and those images would show if the unidentified object was Hertz’ air plane or not.

Shaw said the multi-agency team was working to identify the object.

Waikato Times