Truck Wheels Found in Data


Southland Times, New Zealand
By Sue Fea

Scientists analysing sonar search device data collected on Saturday believe they have located the missing army Unimog truck that crashed into the Kawarau River on February 23.

Sergeant Steve Ereckson, of Cromwell, said yesterday scientists from the Cawthorn Institute,
a Nelson-based research centre, had identified the shapes of two wheels, which appeared to
be the front and rear wheels of the missing truck, in 8m of water.

Two scientists used a Didson acoustic beam sonar in the river late on Saturday, trying to
locate the truck in the hope of finding the third and final soldier missing after the four-wheel
drive truck plunged off State Highway 6 into the river.

The body of one soldier was found on the bank after the incident and police were still awaiting
dental record identification yesterday of a body found near the Goldfields Mining Centre on

Mr Ereckson said yesterday the truck appeared to be upside down, about 100m downstream
from where the vehicle was believed to have entered the river.

"The stretch of water where this vehicle has been identified is still extremely swift water and
decisions will need to be made as to what, if anything, is done in relation to retrieving the
vehicle," Mr Ereckson said.

Police would not be putting anyone's life at risk to recover the truck.

Police, search advisers and an army official will meet in Queenstown tomorrow to decide
whether it was safe and feasible to salvage the vehicle, he said.

Police had offers from heavy haulage companies in the North Island, regularly used for
removing heavy equipment from large ravines, but police had to look seriously at the risks.
"Putting people on top of the water is a different story once you're going into the water
you've got big issues," Mr Ereckson said.

"The families have (also) said they don't want anyone else put at risk."

Police had been searching for the truck in the hope the third crash victim could be recovered,
but there was no guarantee the body was still with the truck or that both could be salvaged
safely,  Mr Ereckson said.

Army public relations officer Major Denise Mackay said yesterday recovery of the missing
soldier's body was the most important focus so it could be returned to his family but, if there
was a possibility the vehicle could be recovered, it would be good to get it out of the river as
it may be an environmental hazard, she said.

Recovery of the vehicle was not necessary for the army Court of Inquiry already under way,
she said.

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