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Pilot admits ‘bad judgement’ in Ewingar fatality

Ewingar, Yates Crossing, on the Clarence River, where SES and Police divers were trying to retrieve the plane that crashed on Saturday 12 April. Photo : Mireille Merlet-Shaw/The Northern Star
Ewingar, Yates Crossing, on the Clarence River, where SES and Police divers were trying to retrieve the plane that crashed on Saturday 12 April. Photo : Mireille Merlet-Shaw/The Northern Star Mireille Merlet-Shaw

A PILOT who hit powerlines before crashing into the Clarence River at Ewingar in 2014, killing an 11-year-old girl, told police it was 'bad judgement by me as a pilot'.

John Patrick Crumpton appeared on the third day of a trial at Lismore District Court facing charges of manslaughter, operating an aircraft recklessly to endanger the life of a person, operating an aircraft recklessly to endanger a person or property and flying an aircraft below 500 feet.

The charges relate to a crash which occurred at 11.02am on April 12, after Mr Crumpton took off in VH-HOG, his Maule M-5 four seater from Casino, and picked up 34-year-old David Whitton and his 11-year-old daughter from Murwillumbah, before flying toward Tenterfield.

In an interview with police played to the 12 person jury, Mr Crumpton told detectives while climbing to 5500 feet when heading to Tenterfield 'I handed over to him (David Whitton) to have a fly.

When questioned by detectives if Mr Whitton had a pilots licence, Mr Crumpton said 'no.'

 

Ewingar, Yates Crossing, on the Clarence River, where SES and Police divers were trying to retrieve the plane that crashed on Saturday 12 April.
Ewingar, Yates Crossing, on the Clarence River, where SES and Police divers were trying to retrieve the plane that crashed on Saturday 12 April. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

He also told detectives Mr Whitton was not flying at any time near the river.

"What caused VH-HOG to become submerged in the Clarence River," Detective Sergeant Russell Ewing asked Mr Crumpton.

"It was a bad judgement to fly that low in that area," Mr Crumpton said.

Mr Crumpton walked about 4km to find help after the crash in which he suffered a cracked sternum, neck trouble, a head laceration, an elbow graze and chemical burns from aviation fuel.

Meryl Ellaby, whose property fronts the river, said she estimated the height she saw Mr Crumpton fly past at '20 to 30 feet above water level', based on the high of the trees.

"I had a vision of that tree and I thought, oh my goodness, that's really low," she said.

Under cross examination by Mr Crumpton's Barrister, Tony Bellanto QC, Essential Energy Safety Manager Peter Bryant why the poles and powerlines were not marked, identifying them, but others down river were.

Topics:  clarence river, ewingar, fatal plane crash, john crumpton, police




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