3 Jul 2013

50th anniversary of Kaimai air crash

10:41 pm on 3 July 2013

A memorial service has been held on Wednesday to mark the 50th anniversary of New Zealand's worst domestic air crash.

Twenty passengers and three crew died when an NAC DC-3 crashed into a ridge on the Kaimai Range near Matamata on 3 July 1963.

The memorial plaque.

The memorial plaque. Photo: RNZ

The plane was flying from Auckland to Tauranga when a severe storm over the range sent it off course. It hit the side of Mount Ngatamahinuera before crashing into a ravine.

The service was held about 9km from the crash site at 9am on Wednesday, the exact time the aircraft lost radio contact. A roll call of the victims' names was read, along with a poem written in 1963 about the disaster.

Wreaths were laid next to a memorial stone by the local mayor, a representative of Air New Zealand and by victims' family members.

Captain David Morgan from Air New Zealand told them the aviation industry still shares in their grief, but that they may rest slightly easier knowing it has learnt from such tragedies.

Richard Waugh, who led the service, says the crash was a national disaster that will hopefully remain unchallenged as the worst aviation accident within New Zealand.

Mr Waugh said the crash was a culmination of a number of factors, including appalling weather conditions, inadequate forecasting and inferior navigational equipment. Because of the weather, he said the pilot would not have been aware of exactly where he was.

The 40-minute service ended with a fly past by a vintage DC-3, similar to the one that crashed.

The crashed NAC DC-3.

The crashed NAC DC-3. Photo: Matamata Historical Society Photo Collection