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HeliTorque :: View topic - EC120 Missing in New Zealand
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HeliTorque Forum Index » Flight Safety

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EC120 Missing in New Zealand
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 05, 2005 2:18 am    Post subject: EC120 Missing in New Zealand Reply with quote

A helicopter owned by one of New Zealand's wealthiest men remains unaccounted for, 18 hours after it was reported missing.

The chopper, owned by Independent Liquor founder Michael Erceg, was on a flight from Auckland to Queenstown. Two helicopters and a fixed wing plane have been searching the western side of the North Island since before six o'clock this morning.

Rescue Coordination Centre spokeswoman Heidi Brook says there have been no reported sightings.

She says they are still wanting to hear of any sightings and anyone with information should contact the emergency services on 111.

Heidi Brook says family members of the missing men have been informed but she cannot say who was on board the chopper. The Newstalk ZB newsroom has been unable to make contact with Mr Erceg, or a spokesperson for his company.

However, it has emerged that the search has been stepped up. The family of the helicopter's pilot has put two more helicopters in the air to help the search. A third additional helicopter has joined the operation from Paraparaumu.

Ms Brook says concerns for the two men aboard the chopper are mounting. She says it will not be an easy task to find the chopper as weather conditions are not ideal for searching.
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 05, 2005 10:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Poor weather limits search for helicopter

The search for two men feared dead after their helicopter went missing on Friday, south of Raglan, has had to be left up to volunteers tramping through bush this morning as rescue helicopters are forced to wait for a break in the cloud.

Liquor baron Michael Erceg and Gus Klatte of the Netherlands are missing after the Eurocopter, which left Auckland shortly before 10am on Friday, disappeared from radar contact 30 minutes later.

It was last seen on radar south of Raglan, and did not make the first of its scheduled refuelling stops at Wanganui on its way to Queenstown.

Rescue Co-ordination Centre spokeswoman Heidi Brook said two helicopters had been up searching earlier today but poor visibility in the area had cut the aerial search. Six more helicopters are also waiting for the weather to improve.

"They'll be going up when they can ??? it's pretty difficult to see a maroon-coloured helicopter from the air. It's dense bush in there and the land-based teams are critical."

More then 30 volunteers resumed the land search on the eastern slopes of Mount Korioi at about 8am, "covering every single metre of ground".

"We are doing all we can, it's really difficult to mount a search in poor visibility and search for a helicopter in rough terrain. We can't put search parties lives in danger," Ms Brook said.

She said family and friends of Mr Erceg had joined in the search efforts.

"Obviously they are really concerned and they want to help as much as they can. Yesterday family and friends were (flying) up there."

Ms Brook said the search was concentrated in the area where the helicopter was last seen on radar, but "that's just one area where (it) could be."

She said it was a waiting game for the clouds to clear and when they did the other rescue craft would be sent in.

Raglan police constable Dave Litton told the Herald on Sunday six or seven residents had reported hearing the helicopter on Friday with one reporting hearing a loud bang and a second a noise like a rotor motor slowing down.

Mr Erceg, from Auckland, is the founder and managing director of Independent Liquor and has a fortune estimated at $620 million.

Independent Liquor is an alcoholic beverage manufacturer and marketer. Its major business is in its own RTD (ready to drink alcoholic beverages) brands but it also produces brands of beer, liqueurs and spirits.

The Sunday Star-Times reported today that Mr Klatte was believed to be the international exports director of Dutch brewery Grolsch International
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 06, 2005 2:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Heat-Seeking Choppers Join Erceg Search

Heat-seeking helicopters are already out searching for a chopper which disappeared two days ago.

Multi-millionaire Michael Erceg and Dutch friend Guus Klatte were on board when it disappeared from the radar near Raglan on Friday morning, while on a trip from Auckland to Queenstown.

Rescue Centre spokesman Lindsay Sturt says one helicopter carrying infra-red equipment began searching again before first light.

He says the idea is to put up more helicopters, but the weather is not great, with low cloud and a bit of drizzle.

He says search helicopters will be out south of Raglan, moving along the last known route of the missing chopper.

Lindsay Sturt says they are also sending out about eight teams of land searchers, who will continue to comb Karioi Mountain.

Michael Erceg ranked ninth on this year's National Business Review rich list, with a purported fortune of $620 million.
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 06, 2005 3:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Search For Erceg Continues

The hunt for millionaire businessman Michael Erceg and Dutchman Guus Klatte was beefed up this afternoon, but that won't make finding the men any easier.

The helicopter carrying the pair disappeared off the radar near Raglan on Friday morning.

Up to 16 helicopters are now involved in the search, along with eight ground teams. Rescue co-ordination spokeswoman Heidi Brook says there are patches of blue sky and quite good visibility, but a helicopter could easily disappear into the bush canopy on Karioi Mountain.

Ms Brook says the search will continue as long as the weather holds.
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 06, 2005 5:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Search Continues For Missing Millionaire

As searchers continue to hunt for a missing multi-millionaire, those who know him are telling of his good works.

Michael Erceg and a Dutch friend, Guus Klatte, were flying from Auckland's Ardmore airfield to Queenstown on Friday morning when the helicopter they were in dropped off the radar somewhere near Raglan. Searchers have been hunting for the pair since.

Mr Erceg was born and raised in West Auckland, before going on to becoming a success with his alco-pop business.

Waitakere City Mayor Bob Harvey describes him as an absolute genius. He says despite moving with his family to Papakura, Mr Erceg has kept close ties with West Auckland.

Mayor Harvey says he is still a 'westie' and an absolute credit to the area.

Sightings of the helicopter on Friday have allowed rescuers to narrow the search for the missing chopper.

Rescue Coordination Centre spokeswoman Heidi Brook says three members of the public claimed to see the chopper above Mokau in northern Taranaki at 11am on Friday.

Ms Brook says prior to those sightings the last known area they were in was south of Raglan, so the search area has been cut by a third. She says 16 helicopters will be back out looking for the pair today. Search and rescue teams are using heat-seeking equipment today in a bid to find the pair.
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 06, 2005 6:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Missing helicopter seen over Taranaki

Sightings of missing millionaire Michael Erceg's helicopter have been reported as one of New Zealand's most extensive searches continues.

Mr Erceg, 50, and Dutch beer company executive Guus Klatte have not been seen since they set out from Auckland shortly before 10am on Friday in Mr Erceg's helicopter.

The $1.7 million Eurocopter, which disappeared from contact 30 minutes after takeoff, was last seen on radar south of Raglan and did not make the first of its scheduled refuelling stops at Wanganui, on its way to Queenstown.

The search has been hampered by bad weather and little information, but three sightings were reported in Taranaki yesterday.

Rescue Coordination Centre mission coordinator John Dickson said the maroon helicopter had been seen flying over Mokau in Taranaki on Friday morning. The search area was now narrowed by about a third, and searchers would concentrate on the area today.

Mr Erceg, whose worth is estimated at $620 million, is said to be a competent pilot who has flown helicopters for the past two years. He made his fortune through Papakura-based Independent Distillers Groups. Mr Klatte is the exports director for beer company Grolsch. His Netherlands-based girlfriend is on her way to New Zealand to join the search.

Mokau's Seaview Holiday Park owner Jean Miles said she was certain she had seen Mr Erceg's helicopter about 11.45am on Friday. She had noticed it before and admired it.

"It doesn't go clunk, clunk, clunk like most helicopters. It was slim and beautiful; it purred along as sweet as a bird. It has come through this way a few times."

Mrs Miles said the fog was very thick, and she remembered thinking it was dangerous for a helicopter to be flying in such conditions. "I think he must have been heading inland a bit to escape that thick sea fog, but something obviously happened. He could be anywhere. It's horrible."

Mr Erceg's brother Ivan said last night that he had not lost hope. Mr Erceg's wife, Lyn, said she still held out hope that her husband was alive, though a family member told The Dominion Post last night that it was becoming harder to cope the longer the search went on.

Sixteen helicopters were involved yesterday in the search of the bottom half of the North Island. Ten helicopters fanned out north from Wanganui and six flew southward from Raglan. Forty volunteers searched Mt Korioi, near Raglan, on foot.

Mr Dickson said it was rare to use so many helicopters, but the area was massive. "We might have two people lying injured somewhere, so it's important we have the area covered as soon as we can."

On Saturday, Mr Erceg's family paid for several helicopters to join the search, but all were now being funded by the Rescue Coordination Centre.

Waitakere Mayor Bob Harvey said Mr Erceg was the city's "favourite son", and he dearly wished for his return.
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 06, 2005 11:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Chopper sightings give searchers hope


The search field for missing millionaire helicopter pilot Michael Erceg and his Dutch passenger has been narrowed after three confirmed sightings in the Mokau area in north Taranaki on Friday.

Mr Erceg - the founder of Independent Liquor and New Zealand's ninth richest man - and beer company executive Gus Klatte, of the Netherlands, are missing after the Eurocopter, which left Auckland shortly before 10am on Friday, disappeared from radar contact 30 minutes later.

Rescue Co-ordination Centre spokeswoman Heidi Brook said the search was being narrowed to the area between Mokau in Taranaki and Wanganui.

"We've followed up each of these sightings and we think that they have definitely seen the helicopter," she told National Radio this morning.

"This is good news for us."

One person had seen the maroon helicopter fly over the Mokau Motorcamp about 11am and then turn up the Mokau River.

Raglan police said yesterday that several residents had reported hearing the helicopter on Friday, with one reporting hearing a loud bang and a second a noise like a rotor motor slowing down.

Seventeen helicopters resumed the search at first light today.

Mr Erceg's family on Saturday paid for several helicopters to join the search but all were now being paid for by the Rescue Co-ordination Centre.

Family members told media that they were still confident he would be found alive.

Mr Erceg's brother, Ivan Erceg, said the first priority was to find the pair.

"I am absolutely positive of finding them alive," he told an Auckland newspaper today.

"There is nothing to suggest they are not."

The search began in the wrong area on Friday but Ms Brook said the sightings near Mokau had given searchers new heart.

Overnight the search centre received more sightings and the helicopter was now last seen south of Mokau.

"It was along the coastline and we think the helicopter was travelling along the coast before heading inland and making its way towards Wanganui.?

That route would probably have taken it past the eastern side of Mt Taranaki but Ms Brook said the flight plan Mr Erceg filed did not indicate if he intended to fly over the mountain.

She said if the relatively new, dark-coloured maroon helicopter had gone down in bush, the bush could have easily closed over it, making it extremely difficult to see from the air.

Ms Brook said the 17 helicopters in today's search would fly from Mokau down the coast and then turn inland to Wanganui.

Parts of the search area were very rugged.

"It is very, very difficult to find a missing helicopter in bush.

"It is going to be a long search," she said.

Ms Brook said that unfortunately, searching would become more difficult as the day progressed as the weather looked set to deteriorate.

She requested anyone who saw a maroon-coloured helicopter in the Taranaki area on Friday to contact police.

Farmers in the Taranaki region had also being asked to check their farmland for the helicopter.
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 07, 2005 8:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just to give everyone an update, I just arrived off the plane from LAX and was going to head south to join the search for Michael's helicopter but the search has been scaled back somewhat. Today there are about 6 or so helicopters out there, instead of the 20 or so yesterday, looking but the problem is the search area is just so big and the countryside is very rugged.

Will post again when more info comes to hand.

Ned
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 08, 2005 4:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Partner of missing beer executive clings to hope


Dutchwoman Floor Heering is clinging to the faint hope that the two men missing after a helicopter disappeared in the North Island are still alive.

Ms Heering, the partner of missing Dutch beer executive Guus Klatte, arrived in New Plymouth from Amsterdam yesterday, to help with the search for the helicopter Mr Klatte was travelling in.

Ms Heering flew over part of the search area in the TET Rescue Helicopter yesterday.

New Zealand millionaire liquor entrepreneur Michael Erceg and Mr Klatte have been missing since Friday, after setting off from Auckland for Queenstown in Mr Erceg's helicopter.

The maroon aircraft, a $1.7 million Eurocopter, disappeared 30 minutes after takeoff and was last seen on radar south of Raglan. It failed to make its first refuelling stop at Wanganui.

Mr Klatte is the exports director for Dutch beer company Grolsch.

Searchers scoured the eastern slope of Mt Karioi, south of Raglan, during the weekend, before new information shifted the focus of the search to Taranaki.

Yesterday 12 helicopters and crew flew from New Plymouth Airport to cover an extensive search area north of New Plymouth.

An emotional Ms Heering, who is in New Zealand also on behalf of Mr Klatte's family, made a plea for anyone who had seen the helicopter to contact the authorities.

"Please report any sightings you have seen. It is important to us all."

Mr Klatte's family was worried sick about their son, she said.

Ms Heering, clinging to the faint hope her boyfriend was still alive, said she felt better being in New Zealand and knowing first hand what was being done to find him.

"I want him back. I want him to be fine, and I'm sure he is.

"The worst thing is not knowing. We are hopeful that they are still somewhere under the clouds."

Rescue Co-ordination Centre representative in New Plymouth, John Funnell, said the search area was being cut into small blocks that were then allocated to individual helicopters.

The search had been hampered by bad weather and scant information.

Mr Funnell said yesterday's search concentrated on an area from Mokau to Urenui as a result of fresh information.

Helicopters buzzed overhead at the airport all day, as crews came in from searching one block to take on more fuel, have a quick cup of tea, and leave for another allocated search area.

The rescue centre's national spokesman, Steve Corbett, said the search covered 10,000km? yesterday, and had drawn a blank.

Another search area was identified yesterday and would be the focus of today's efforts, Mr Corbett said. "It is at the top of our priority list at the moment."

Searchers will scour the area from Raetihi and Ohakune south, from first light.

He paid tribute to the skill and effort of the many helicopter pilots who had joined the search.

Mr Corbett said there could have been a number of reasons why the missing helicopter's emergency locator beacon had not gone off, including a fault, or damage sustained in the crash.

The extra activity had not gone unnoticed at the airport. Air traffic controller Evan Heydon said things had been a bit busier than normal.

He was having to deal with an additional 50 helicopter movements, on top of his normal air traffic separation procedures.

"Helicopters are easier to handle though, because they can be put down anywhere," Mr Heydon said.

A member of the airport ground staff said it was the busiest day he had ever had.

"Put it this way, it is the most refuels I've ever done in a day," he said, as he rushed off to another job.

Eurocopter New Zealand manager Jimmy Nels joined the search on Sunday.

"It is one of our machines, so we will be out there supporting in whatever way we can," Mr Nels said.

He was flying in a bigger model of the missing helicopter, valued at more than $2 million.

Mr Nels, on his first search, said he was there as a spotter.
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 19, 2005 9:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bodies of missing men found near Raglan
19 November 2005

The search for a missing helicopter pilot and liquor magnate, who went missing with his Dutch beer company executive passenger more than two weeks ago, ended on Saturday.

The bodies of Michael Erceg and his passenger, Guus Klatte, were found in the wreckage of the helicopter at the base of Mt Karioi, south of Raglan, about 7pm today, a spokesman for the Wellington-based Rescue Coordination Centre told NZPA tonight.

"The bodies of the missing men and the helicopter were found by an independent search party and were thought to have also been spotted by a helicopter," the spokesman said.

He said Mr Erceg's helicopter had crashed into an area of bush within farmland at the base of the mountain.

"Both men are believed to have died in the crash," he said.

Mr Erceg, one of New Zealand's richest men, and Mr Klatte were heading for Queenstown with planned refuelling stops at Wanganui and Rangiora, when they went missing on Nov 4.

Michael Erceg's brother, Ivan, who has been leading the family's search for the missing men, was not available for comment tonight.

Police referred all inquiries to the Rescue Coordination Centre.

The official search for Mr Erceg and Mr Klatte was suspended more than a week ago.
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 19, 2005 10:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This was Michael's EC120 when I shot it just before he took delivery of it.

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 20, 2005 8:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Detective work led to Erceg's copter
21 November 2005

Meticulous detective work by a helicopter pilot and persistence led to the discovery of millionaire Michael Erceg's smashed helicopter.

The bodies of the liquor baron and his Dutch passenger, Guus Klatte, were recovered yesterday.

The wreckage of Mr Erceg's Eurocopter, which disappeared from radar while flying south from Auckland two weeks ago, was found on Saturday in a narrow strip of bush on farmland on the eastern slopes of Mt Karioi, about 20 kilometres south of Raglan.

Lion Foundation rescue helicopter pilot Guy Beange said searchers were directed to the area after Auckland Westpac rescue helicopter pilot Darryl Sherwin had done a careful analysis of error in the radar system that tracked Mr Erceg's fatal flight.

Mr Sherwin said yesterday that, two weeks ago, searchers were advised radar error could be up to 500 meters either side of its last reported radar position. He had flown on an earlier search flight and said that after analysing his own flight path and radar plots ??? and the radar plot of the missing helicopter ??? he calculated searchers should look 693 metres east of Mr Erceg's last reported radar position.

It took a few days to find other pilots who could understand what he was talking about and he was delighted when his calculations proved correct.

However, he was not critical of search coordinators. "No doubt something will be learnt from this, but that will come out in the debriefing."

Mr Sherwin said the strip of bush where the helicopter had gone down in a descending turn was in the middle of open farmland. "A second either way and it would have been over an open paddock and they would have found him straight away. Heaps of helicopters might have flown over that same strip of bush without thinking anything could be in there."

Mr Beange said the crash scene was spotted visually, and with the use of infra-red heat-seeking equipment on his Squirrel helicopter.

"There was a small area of damage where the aircraft went in but we also had the benefit of two weeks of dieback, which gave the bush a slightly different colour."

Official search efforts began at Karioi, then rapidly moved south toward Wanganui as possible sightings of the missing helicopter were checked out.

Bill Sommer of the Civil Aviation Authority said crash investigators were likely to be at the crash scene for up to three days. It could take up to nine months to complete the investigation.

Family and friends of the crash victims said yesterday they hoped lessons were learnt from the search.

Independent Liquor director and private search co-ordinator Roger Smith said: "Now is not the time to dwell on any mistakes that may have been made and issues as to how the search was conducted. These questions can be addressed at a later date."
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