Govt pledges to help in Airbus crash aftermath

Prime Minister John Key has expressed his condolences to those who lost loved ones in the plane crash off the coast of France and said the Government will do all it can do to assist.

Mr Key said he had heard with enormous sadness that a leased Air NZ aircraft crashed in the Mediterranean overnight with five New Zealanders on board.

"On behalf of all New Zealanders I would like to express my sincere condolences to the friends, families and colleagues of the five New Zealanders now feared dead in the crash," Mr Key said.

"The New Zealand Government is prepared to offer any and all assistance required in the immediate aftermath of this tragedy."

Mr Key said two officials from the New Zealand embassy in Paris would leave shortly for the crash area to provide assistance as required.

The deputy chief investigator from the Transport Air Investigation Commission (TAIC), Ken Matthews, was also heading to the crash site to support the investigation.

His role would initially be to act as an observer with the likelihood that the on-scene representative would be an active member of the inquiry.

The air investigation fell under French jurisdiction, but it was appropriate that some one from New Zealand was there as an observer and perhaps to play a greater role, Mr Key said.

TAIC said Mr Matthews, an aviation specialist, was expected to join the investigation in France over the weekend.

New Zealand-based TAIC staff would also be supporting the French investigation by helping with any evidence-gathering required in New Zealand.

Chief executive Lois Hutchinson said international aviation law allows for countries strongly connected to an accident occurring in another jurisdiction to join an investigation.

Those on board the Airbus A320 operated by XL Airways of Germany in the Mediterranean are given no chance of survival.

One Air New Zealand pilot, three engineers and a Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) inspector were among the seven people on the aircraft, which crashed off Perpignan, in southeast France.

The Airbus was being flown by two XL Airways pilots.

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