Canterbury Police have recovered the body of missing helicopter pilot Michael Mehrtens during an underwater search at Lake Sumner, in North Canterbury.
Canterbury Police Operations Manager, Inspector Craig McKay, says the body was retrieved at around 5pm on Monday.
A search using a radial sonar device had located an object of interest among helicopter debris on the lake bed at a depth of 127 metres.
“The recovery team had been on the water since 6.30am, using a NIWA submersible remote-operated vehicle to locate and retrieve the item – which is now confirmed to have been Mr Mehrtens’ body,” Inspector McKay says.
“The NIWA operators, in conjunction with the Police National Dive Squad, have put in an outstanding effort in extremely challenging conditions to recover Mr Mehrtens.
“The operation required four attempts using the manipulator arm on the ROV to latch on to the body, then bring it up to a depth of 30 metres where it was retrieved by Police divers.
“We are pleased that this outcome will now bring some relief and closure to Mr Mehrtens’ family and friends.”
Inspector McKay says the body will be brought back to Christchurch today and released to the family once a post-mortem examination is completed.
Inspector McKay paid tribute to the many people and organisations who had contributed to the search and recovery efforts since the helicopter first went down on May 21, including the Westpac Rescue Helicopter, Navy, LandSAR volunteers, Amateur Radio Emergency Communications, NIWA, private contractors and police staff.
“We are also very grateful for the assistance and support of the local community, volunteers and staff at Lake Sumner Station.
“The Police National Dive Squad have described this as a very demanding operation, because of the remoteness of the location, the depth of water and the complexities of searching and retrieving items from the site.
“Severe weather last week also hampered efforts – restricting access to the lake and delaying the arrival of critical equipment from overseas.”
Inspector McKay says Mr Mehrtens’ family have been briefed on the recovery operation.
Source: New Zealand Police.