You are not permitted to download, save or email this image. Visit image gallery to purchase the image.
A light plane plane has crashed into water off Raglan Beach and sunk.
The incident happened about 1.40pm. The Piper Cherokee crashed into the water about 100 metres off Raglan Beach, which was packed with holidaymakers.
Police said it appeared the plane's engine cut out just after take-off and the pilot was attempting to make it back to the airstrip.
Two males and a female were onboard. The males have been taken to Waikato Hospital by Ambulance.
The female is status one with serious injuries and has been taken to hospital by Rescue Helicopter.
The plane is submerged.
"Raglan Beach was full of holiday makers so it was fortunate the plane avoided the high density area."
Lane Hannah was driving in Raglan's township when he saw the plane coming back towards the air strip.
"I said to my wife, 'oh geez, that plane doesn't look like it's going to hit the runway'. It looked like it was coming in on an odd angle and it was pretty low at the time."
A couple of minutes later the sirens of emergency services were sounding and people [were] running towards the harbour.
When Mr Hannah, who is on vacation from Auckland, got to the beach there was "just a bit of a tail sticking out of the water".
"They are quite lucky really, in a sense, that this hit the water as opposed to getting any closer (to the runway).
"Because it is effectively parallel with a grass area where there are hundreds of people."
Mr Hannah said he saw a woman who was in the plane get put in an ambulance which was then driven to an open area, where she was transported into a rescue helicopter.
The Coastguard and other people were now near the site of the crash with equipment and it looked like they were trying to float the plane to the surface, Mr Hannah said.
Maria Puaula was about to start her shift at the Raglan Kopua Holiday Park when the incident unfolded. She said dozens of beachgoers reacted in horror as the plane circled above them and crashed into the sea about 100 metres offshore.
"People were just looking up and thinking "what the ...?" and then it happened."
Ms Puaula was walking over the bridge on Raglan Harbour with some friends when she heard the plane that had just taken off, "but it just seemed to be puttering".
"We thought 'that doesn't sound good' so we looked up and it was quite low."
Ms Puaula said the plane swerved to miss the township and headed left towards the harbour. She thought the plane was going to recover but it hovered "and then it crashed" into the water.
She said at least 200 people were at the beach and dozens of people began running towards the scene. Boaties and "heaps of kayaking people" arrived at the crash site very quickly.
"It up-turned and started to sink slowly, as it started to sink we saw a couple of heads pop out. Everything went crazy and we just waited on the shore - there seemed to be three people on the plane."
Ms Puaula said a woman, who had a neck brace possibly as a result of the accident, did not look well. The woman was flown by helicopter to Waikato Hospital.
Two men also believed to be on the plane were understood to have moderate injuries.