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Kawhia plane ditching, release III

Kawhia plane ditching, release III

As the search for a ditched light aircraft with two people on board heads into its third day Waikato Police stress this is still very much a search operation.

Operation head, Sergeant Warren Shaw of the Waikato Police Search and Rescue Squad said 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 a buoy was deployed to guide searchers back to the site and to use as a starting point for locating the aircraft.

"Specialist Police Divers then travelled to the site yesterday and began mapping areas of the ocean floor around the buoy."

Mr Shaw said that search did not locate the aircraft and today Police divers, working in conjunction with Mine Countermeasures staff and divers from the Royal New Zealand Navy would return to the site aboard the Coastguard's Raglan based Gallagher Rescue vessel.

"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.

"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."

Mr Shaw said 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."
End

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