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Plane Crashlanding at Urertiti Beach, Ruakaka CALLOUT – XMAS DAY 25 Dec 2008

Plane Crashlanding at Urertiti Beach RuakakaPlane Crashlanding at Urertiti Beach, Ruakaka, 2nd XMAS DAY CALLOUT

As Glenn, Kevin (Northland SAR management) and Police SAR S/Sgt Metcalfe & Sgt Neil Pennington were about to leave the Tarewa Road SAR HQ site, the initial report came through Police Communications about a ‘plane crash off Urettiti beach near Ruakaka.

Due to extremely limited information, and possibility of escalation, S/Sgt Metcalfe requested that Glenn & Kevin also respond to this incident.

Due to already being on a SAR callout, approx. 15 minute response to scene was possible from the call.

Both Glenn & Kevin are experienced in almost all aspects of Search and Rescue operations from ‘hands on in the field’ to ‘HQ SAR management’. Skills range from communication, CIMMS, advanced first aid, hands on technical Cliff & Cave rescue through to computerized mapping & segmentation for rescue.

Both are also underwater scuba divers.

While none of services ended up being required, they were on hand.


Pilot ‘remarkably calm’ after sea ditching

2:20PM Friday Dec 26, 2008
Abi Thomas

A pilot on his way to visit his mother in Whangarei Hospital for Christmas yesterday is lucky to be in one piece after crash-landing his plane into the ocean just south of Whangarei.

The 52-year-old man from Howick, Auckland, flew his Cessna from Ardmore but his engine failed as he was flying over Bream Bay.

Witnesses reported seeing smoke in the cabin and hearing spluttering noises as the pilot careered towards the ocean to make an emergency landing about 500m south of the Ruakaka Surf Club.

The uninjured pilot made it out of the cockpit and was quickly rescued by two Ruakaka surf lifeguards. The plane remains on the ocean floor about 200m from the beach.

The Civil Aviation Authority was notified and was expected to visit the scene last night or today.

Eyewitness Avon Curel was watching a group of children play in the water when he saw the Cessna flying perilously close to the ocean moments before it crashed.

The Dargaville man was visiting friends at Uretiti campground.

“I wasn’t too sure what it was at first, I just saw this thing hover above the water. It hit the deck and floated for a while, it was then when we worked out it was a plane.”

He saw the plane nose-dive, before sinking beneath the surface. Mr Curel then rang the police.

“I was surprised how quickly they were here, I was really impressed. Especially on a day like today.”

Ruakaka surf lifeguards Rory Taylor and Joel Larimer were expecting their Christmas Day shift to be routine.

“It was a pretty quiet, normal sort of day,” said Mr Taylor of his start to the day.

But as more people flocked to the beach, a man came rushing up to the clubhouse about midday and told the men a plane had crashed.

“So I got out the binos (binoculars) and saw there was a tail sticking out of the water,” Mr Taylor said.

He and Mr Larimer, a visiting lifeguard from San Diego, US, closed the beach, got everyone out of the water and took the inflatable rescue boat out to where the plane had landed.

“Everyone was pretty shocked, eh. It’s not something you see every day,” Mr Taylor said.

The men could see the plane’s tail from their watch house but, by the time they were out on the water, the aircraft had sunk.

The pilot had begun to swim towards shore, Mr Taylor said.

“We got out there and he was just bobbing around in the water. He was saying ‘I’m fine, don’t worry about me’.”

Mr Larimer added that the man was “remarkably calm”.

“He’d just put out a Mayday call, and he just wanted to make sure that was taken care of.”

Both lifeguards were also amazed at how quickly emergency services responded.

“We brought the guy straight up here but only about five minutes later the ambulance arrived,” Mr Taylor said.

Whangarei police Sergeant Neil Pennington said the man had been on his way from Ardmore, near Auckland, to visit his mother in Whangarei Hospital. It appeared the engine of the plane had died.

The pilot was experienced but was flying a new plane, Mr Pennington said.

“The aeroplane had just been imported from America, so he’d only just got it. So it seems it’s malfunctioned somehow.”

The pilot was well, and walked from the ambulance into the hospital. “He was fine. He apologised for wasting our time.”