New Zealand Navy Helps Recover Crashed Plane and Its Occupants

New Zealand Navy Helps Recover Crashed Plane and Its Occupants

The Minister of Defence of New Zealand, Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman has commended the efforts of the Navy and the NZDF in the recovery of a crashed light aircraft and the bodies of pilot Eric Hertz and his wife Kathy from the seabed off Raglan in early April.

 “The complexity of the mission and dedication of the staff can easily go unnoticed,” said Dr Coleman. “In this case it is important to acknowledge what the Defence Force achieved.”

The twin-engined Beechcraft Baron crashed in the sea on 30 March. At the request of the police, the Navy deployed the Mine Counter Measures Team to find the plane and the diving support ship HMNZS MANAWANUI and the Operational Dive Team to recover the plane and its occupants.

The wreck was located by the MCMT using the Navy’s high tech underwater search equipment—Remotely Operated vehicle (ROV) and REMUS—from the Coastguard’s GALLAGHER RESCUE vessel.

After 46 hours in transit, MANAWANUI arrived on site with her wet dive bell, compression chamber and stand-alone crane to begin the salvage, starting on 5 April.

 “Eleven divers from the Operational Diving Team… conducted 11 dives in pairs, resulting in approximately 33 man hours of diving over the three day recovery period,” said Dr Coleman. “Operating at the very limits of their diving capabilities they prepared the aircraft for recovery.

“During the task one Navy diver suffered from salt water inhalation. The dive team uses very robust safety operating procedures which enabled speedy treatment for the diver. He is now fully recovered and has been discharged back to duty,” said the Minister.

MANAWANUI’s crane was used to lift the wreckage, which was taken to Devonport Naval Base arriving Tuesday 9 April.

 “This has been a truly multi-agency operation, said Dr Coleman. “The training and professionalism of NZ Navy personnel has been evident as they operate alongside NZ Police, Coastguard, CAA, and local authorities. I commend the Defence Force for its excellent work under challenging conditions.”

Naval Today Staff, April 11, 2013; Image: New Zealand Navy