WELLINGTON, New Zealand – The crew aboard a New Zealand fishing boat on Thursday hauled up a surprising and gruesome catch: a small plane with a body inside.
Authorities suspect the plane is a 19-foot (5.7 metre) aerobatic biplane that was home-assembled from a kit and flown by missing Auckland pilot Daroish Kraidy.
The crew of the San Kawhai was trawling for fish when they brought up the wreckage in the boat’s nets at about 10 a.m., said Trish Sherson, a spokeswoman for fishing company Sanford.
The wreckage was later hoisted aboard a police boat which late Thursday was headed back to Auckland. Police said the plane was severely damaged and that a detailed inspection of it will be carried out Friday by officials that include a victim identification expert.
Typically, trawl nets are dragged in a wide arc along the ocean floor to ensnare fish. Buoyancy can make it easier to lift heavy objects in the water than on land.
The 61-foot (18.5 metre) fishing vessel is one of Sanford’s smaller boats and typically catches tarakihi, orange roughy and other fish that live near the coast.
Kraidy’s Acro Sport plane is the only plane listed as missing by New Zealand’s Civil Aviation Authority. Authority spokesman Mike Richards said the Acro is relatively lightweight and is made with a metal and wood frame that’s covered by fabric.
Kraidy, 53, took off March 25 from Ardmore airfield near Auckland. Minutes later, his plane disappeared from radar screens, leading authorities to conclude he either switched off the plane’s transponder or was flying at a very low altitude.
Kraidy had previously flown in the World Precision Flying Championships. His ex-wife and daughter told Fairfax Media in May they believed his disappearance was deliberate after he had battled depression for years.
His ex-wife noted some similarities to the disappearance 17 days earlier of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, with 239 passengers and crew on board. That plane has not been found.
Fishermen on Thursday transported the wreckage to a bay near Great Barrier Island, about 90 kilometres (56 miles) northeast of Auckland, where they met police.
Police said they were in contact with Kraidy’s family and friends about the discovery.