2degrees CEO Eric Hertz and his wife Kathy Hertz are missing, believed dead, following a plane crash near Kawhia harbour yesterday. The police said on Sunday the focus is on recovering the bodies of the occupants of the plane that crashed. Search and Rescue Mission Controller John Dickson told the Sunday Star Times the Auckland Westpac rescue helicopter, a Coastguard fixed-wing aircraft, and a Raglan Coastguard vessel intensively searched the area, but the operation has now moved from a search and rescue to a police recovery of bodies.
The pilot of a twin engined Beechcraft Baron radioed Airways New Zealand to report engine failure around 12.20pm on Saturday and seconds later it vanished off the radar screen. It ditched into 60-metre-deep sea off the west coast of the North Island between Kawhia and Raglan according to reports. The occupants are believed to have been Eric Bennett Hertz, 58 and his wife Katherine Picone Hertz, 64.
2degrees issued a statement paying tribute to the couple.
"The 2degrees team is shocked and deeply saddened by the loss of its CEO Eric Hertz and his with Kathy following a plane crash off Raglan yesterday. Given the Police recovery effort is just beginning, the company cannot comment on the accident, but does wish to thank those from New Zealand and around the world who have offered their condolences and support."
Director of corporate affairs Mat Bolland says a statement from the family will be released in due course, and he asked media not to contact the family directly.
"Eric and Kathy had lived in many places, but called New Zealand home. They recently gained residency and, through flying, got to see more of New Zealand then many of us will ever see," says Bolland.
"Kathy was also passionate about her new home, working closely wtiht AUT and providing us with sound counsel on community initiatives."
2degrees chairman Stewart Sherriff and the board are working with the company's management to ensure business continuity.
According to the SST, the couple were on their way to visit their daughter, who had moved to New Zealand following the successful completion of her studies in the US.
Eric Hertz, who moved to New Zealand in 2009 to head 2degrees when it launched, spoke recently to Computerworld about the family's commitment to New Zealand. "This is home. It's wonderful place to live. I've worked and lived in seven different countries and the quality of life here is unequalled. I don't know why people leave."
Before starting at 2degrees, Hertz worked for a number of US telcos, including Zumobi, BellSouth, AT&T Wireless, Western Wireless and McCaw Cellular.
Hertz led the mobile telco through the tumultuous start-up phase. Since it launched in August 2009, 2degrees has acquired one million subscribers, has 12 percent revenue market share and employs 750 staff. To date, the network has cost around $500 million.
Hertz appeared to be eyeing up the fixed line market, telling Computerworld: "It's really a question for us and our investors - do you want 25 percent of a $2 billion market, or would you rather have 20 percent of a $5 billion market? That's an easy first question."
TUANZ CEO Paul Brislen has also paid tribute to Hertz and his role in establishing 2degrees, writing in a blog post last night: "It's not overblown to say that Eric has led 2degrees to make dramatic changes to the New Zealand telecommunications space. Without 2degrees we would be facing a duopoly in mobile telecommunications and wouldn't have rollover minutes, shared data, or any of the other innovations 2degrees has brought to the market," Brislen writes.
"The company has changed the landscape of competition for the New Zealand telecommunications market in an incredibly positive way and we as an industry are all the more poorer for today's news."
Arthur Zhang, chief executive of Huawei New Zealand, said he was deeply saddened by the loss of Eric Hertz and his wife Kathy.
“Eric was a huge figure in our industry who drove real change for the sector. His vision and leadership will be greatly missed.
“He was a dear friend and I am deeply saddened to hear of his passing,” Mr Zhang said.
“Our thoughts at this time are with Eric and Kathy’s family, friends and colleagues.”