Both bodies recovered from Hertz plane wreckage

Last updated 17:56 07/04/2013
Hertz plane
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THE WRECK: Eric Hertz's plane was found 56 metres below the ocean surface.

Eric Hertz
JOHN SELKIRK/Fairfax NZ
GONE: Eric Hertz died when his twin-engined plane crashed into the sea off Kawhia, near Raglan.
Kathy Hertz
BODY RECOVERED: Kathy Hertz was onboard the plane with her husband.

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Both bodies have now been recovered from the downed plane flown by 2degrees boss Eric Hertz.

Police have confirmed that they are the bodies of Hertz and his wife Katherine.

Most of the wreckage was also lifted 56m up off the sea floor today and will stay on the specialist dive vessel HMNZS Manawanui until it docks in Auckland.

Divers descended on the aircraft wreck for a second day today in calmer waters.

Eric and Kathy Hertz were in their twin-engine Beechcraft Baron when it ditched into deep water south of Gannet Island just over a week ago.

The Civil Aviation Authority needs the wreck onshore to conduct its investigation into what caused the crash but it could be up to a year before answers emerge.

Police have been working on behalf of the Coroner in the body recovery.

The first body was brought to shore yesterday with the assistance of the coastguard and was transported to Auckland for an autopsy to be carried out on Monday.

Waikato Police Operations Manager, Inspector John Kelly, said it was with a great deal of satisfaction ''tinged with sadness'' that he announced the successful recovery of the second body tonight.

"At the same time the Navy has been successful in recovering a significant part of the wreckage,'' he said.

"All staff involved in the operation, both professional and volunteers, are privileged to have been able to return Eric and Katherine to their family and friends."

Kelly said Katherine Hertz' body would be transported to Auckland where an autopsy on both bodies would take place.

"The Police investigation from here is on behalf of the Coroner where as 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,'' he said.

"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.''

One of the navy divers was injured during the wreckage recovery yesterday.

Kelly said the injury showed "just how significant the risks faced by divers working below the ocean's surface are''.

He would not specify what the injury was, saying only that the diver was injured while working on the ocean floor about 2.30pm.

"The diver was recovered to the surface and has since been flown by rescue helicopter for treatment as a precautionary measure," Kelly said.

"On behalf of all the agencies involved we would like to express our best wishes to him, Lieutenant Commander Trevor Leslie and his Operational Dive Team and the captain and crew of the Manawanui."

Kelly said the incident underlined why safety had to come first despite the desire to recover the aircraft and bodies.

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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"

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 on March 30.

- Stuff

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