NZ Soldier dies in Unimog accident - Two still missing - Page 2

February 24th, 2005  
A Can of Man
Yeah the northern bit was what I was thinking of.
February 24th, 2005  
police divers are now saying there is almost no chance of recovering the bodies of the two missing soldiers, who they assume are still trapped in the unimog...which they can't find.

the river at that point is almost 20 meters deep and is part of the clutha river system...which has the same volume as the nile (in a much more confined space)
February 27th, 2005  
Searchers turn to flood gates
25 February 2005

Flood-control gates might be used to lower the flow of water into the Kawarau River in a bid to find an army Unimog that ploughed off the Kawarau Gorge highway on Wednesday, killing all three occupants.

Efforts to find the truck and the bodies of two soldiers failed yesterday. River conditions were too dangerous for police divers to do a full dive.

Police yesterday released the names of the soldiers in the Unimog.

They were Private Ashley Patrick Goodwin, 19, from Motueka, whose body was recovered at the scene, and Private Shane Adrian Ohlen, 21, from Wellington, and Private David James Partington, 17, from Linton, whose bodies have not been found.

Pte Goodwin and Pte Ohlen were based at Burnham Military Camp, and Pte Partington at the Linton Army Camp.

Divers wearing snorkels and masks searched the area of river where the truck entered and recovered wreckage from the truck, including the rear window and a seat from the rear of the cab, as well as an army shirt.

The seat was found 10m downstream from where the truck entered the river.

A later helicopter sweep of the river from Lake Dunstan to the accident site and jet-boat and jet-ski searches of the rapids near the crash site revealed nothing.

Police said using the gates at the Kawarau Bridge Falls to cut the water flow into the river could be the next option.

The gates are designed to control lake levels, but have not been used for 10 years and have been damaged by vandals in recent years. Army engineers will look at whether the gates can be operated.

Constable Julian Cahill, from Queenstown police search and rescue, said using the gates could lower the river level by 2m to 3m.

"It's something that we're looking at. The gates haven't been used for a long time, so whether they can be used is something the army and their engineers are coming down to look at."

Queenstown Lakes District Council harbourmaster Marty Black said he had sent photographs of the gates to the army in Wellington.

"But no decision has been made yet, and there's a lot to work through," Mr Black said. "It's not something that will happen overnight."

Const Cahill said it was almost certain the truck had been washed further downstream, although it was impossible to know how far.

"We don't think it's been trapped in a hole near where it went in, but there's about 5km of water where it could have gone."

The search area yesterday was in a very rapid section of the river. Visibility was only about 0.5m.

"There's a huge volume of water going through there in a very confined space - it's about 200 cu m a second. You have a truck with a huge surface area, with a huge volume of water behind it, so it could have been carried down a long way."

New Zealand Land Search and Rescue co-ordinator Adrian Dance said searchers had almost exhausted their options.

Most searching over the next two days would be done from the air. If nothing was found, the search would be reassessed, Mr Dance said

"The divers would have been risking death themselves if they'd tried to dive in there. We may look at using some more sophisticated technology, such as sonar equipment or underwater cameras, to see if anything can be found, but it's hard to know if that will be useful," he said.

"The river takes no prisoners. It's a treacherous piece of water, with all the obvious dangers which come from trying to search there."

Police finished interviewing witnesses to the crash and mapping the accident scene yesterday.

Sergeant Steve Ereckson said the witnesses had given them "a much better picture" of what had happened.

"But it's definitely along the lines of what we initially thought, with the truck hitting the barrier and losing control," he said.

Speed, weather and road conditions did not appear to be factors in the crash, he said.
February 28th, 2005  

Topic: New Zealand Unimog accident

Although roll bars may be a good idea, they wouldn't have helped in this case.

The Kawarau river swallowed the truck and 2 of the 3 soldiers without a trace. Although only about 25m wide at that point, it is about 20m deep and has a huge flow for its size. The Unimog has probably been swept downstream and the bodies separated from it.

March 8th, 2005  
Unimog may have been found: police

• Kawarau River

By Sophie Hazelhurst

Queenstown: Cromwell police yesterday said they might have located the wreckage of the New Zealand Army Unimog that plunged into the Kawarau River last month.
Data collected with a sonar device on Saturday night had been analysed, and had identified two wheels which appeared to be the front and rear wheel of the truck, Sergeant Steve Ereckson said in a statement.
“The truck appears to be upside down, and in water approximately 8m deep and about 100m downstream from where the vehicle is believed to have entered the river,” he said.
Saturday night’s search party painted an orange mark above the river indicating where the truck is thought to lie.
The sonar device used in the search, called a didson, uses acoustic beams to record data which is transformed into a near-video-quality image of the view underwater.
Sgt Ereckson said the stretch of water where the finding had been made, just downstream of a grade-four rapid, was still “extremely swift water”.
He said a meeting would be held in Queenstown tomorrow with police, search advisers and an army representative, to decide what, if anything, should be done in relation to retrieving the vehicle.
“We will not put anybody’s life at risk to recover the truck,” he said.
The Unimog, being used in a training exercise, ploughed off State Highway 6 and into the river on February 23, killing the truck’s three soldier occupants, Private Ashley Goodwin (19), of Motueka, Private Shane Ohlen (21), of Wellington, and Private David Partington (17), of Linton.
The body of Pte Goodwin was discovered thrown from the truck on its way down to the river, and a second body was found on Friday, about 6km downstream of the crash.
Sgt Ereckson said formal identification could not be made until full dental records arrived with the pathologist in Dunedin.
Police on Saturday said they planned to scale down the search for the third body.