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Flying school releases statement on fatal plane crash

5.30pm UPDATE: A GOLD Coast based flight school has confirmed one of its instructors and a trainee pilot were killed in this morning's plane crash at South Gundurimba.

Air Gold Coast released a statement this afternoon saying "we offer our support and condolences to their families, our thoughts are with them".

The company said it would be assisting the Australian Transport Safety Bureau and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority in their investigations.

  • Read the full statement here.

3.30pm UPDATE: THE bodies of two men killed in a light aircraft crash at South Gundurimba this morning may remain in the wreckage overnight.

An Australian Transport Safety Bureau spokesman said a team of two investigators would be flying out of Canberra this afternoon and are expected arrive at the scene, after liaising with police, late this evening.

Two additional investigators will take off from Canberra tomorrow morning.

Air Gold Coast flight training school has confirmed one of the victims was an instructor from their school.

Sam Todhunter, a flying instructor based at Lismore Airport, said he was flying training circuits with a student at the time of the crash.

"We were doing training circuits at Lismore and I heard this plane when it was inbound call that it was inbound and what time it was going to be there," he said.

Both planes were doing a rectangular training circuit from Lismore Airport and doing "touch and go" landings.

Mr Todhunter, a former RAAF fighter pilot with more than 50 years flying experience, said the next radio call from the same aircraft came across saying it was going to change runways due to a cross wind, a male voice he said was the student.

"Then a more professional sounding voice came over the radio and amended the call that they were going to rejoin the circuit downwind."

Continuing the circuit with his student, Mr Todhunter said he heard no further radio transmissions from the other aircraft.

"We did the touch and go landing and took off and I saw the smoke and thought it was a grass fire."

"Then I realized there had been no further radio transmissions from the plane so it all must of happened pretty quickly.

When he flew over the crash site about 30 minutes after the plane went down, Mr Todhunter said he saw a large area of burnt grass around the wreckage which was mostly intact.

"I flew over the smoke and there it was, right at the base turning point of the circuit.

"The fact that it's fairly intact means that it has gone down virtually like a brick."

Gold Coast Airport has confirmed the aircraft took off this morning on a training flight bound for Lismore.

Mr Todhunter said he didn't think the plane was based at Lismore but he had heard it on the radio doing training flights around Lismore on several occasions.

An aerial photo of the scene of a light airplane crash at South Gundurimba, south of Lismore, where two people have died. Photo: Doug Eaton / The Northern
An aerial photo of the scene of a light airplane crash at South Gundurimba, south of Lismore, where two people have died. Photo: Doug Eaton / The Northern Doug Eaton

1.46pm UPDATE: INSPECTORS from the the Australian Transport Safety Bureau are travelling from Canberra to Lismore to inspect the crash scene.

The inspection means police are unable to retrieve the bodies of the two people killed in the crash, who remain in the wreckage, even though thunderstorms are forming nearby.

The main body of the plane is resting in a gully in the centre of a of a 400m-wide patch charred earth from the grass fire started by the crash.

12 NOON UPDATE: DETECTIVES are scouring a paddock  looking for debris next  to the site of a Lismore plane crash which has claimed the lives of two people.

At this stage, police say they have been unable to find registration details for the plane and so are unable to confirm which plane it is that has crashed.

A duty officer with the Richmond Local Area Command is expected to give a press conference on the crash shortly. 

Information coming in suggests the plane was registered to a Currumbin business.

Wally Soward of the Northern Rivers Aero Club said he understood the plane was a Piper Archer that was being used for landing practice at Lismore Airport.

He said he believed the plane was coming in for its third landing when it crashed.

However, he said this information was not confirmed.

Flying schools have said the Piper is an unusual plane to learn to fly in. They said most people would learn in a Cessna, raising the possibility the pilot was learning in his or her own plane.

11.20am: POLICE have established a crime scene around the crash site, including an exclusion zone out to 200 metres.

Officers have been sent in towards the wreck to recover the bodies of the two people killed.

A witness at the scene, Steven Bilson, said he saw the plane go down as he was driving past the airstrip.

Mr Bilson said he saw the plane bank sharply and lose altitude before it slammed into the ground in a 'big fire ball'.

A 50 metre circular area of charred grass now surrounds the wreckage.

A hazmat unit, three fire trucks, police, police rescue, and paramedics are in attendance.

Police are currently inspecting the wreckage, which appears to be in a gully, 200 metres south of the highway

Emergency services crews rushed to the scene near Wharf Rd, Gundurimba, about 10.20am, about two kilometres south of the airport.

According to first reports the plane has crashed approximately 2km south of the airport, on private property about 100 metres west of the Bruxner Highway.

Two bodies, described as possibly an instructor and and pilot, have since been recovered from the plane.


View Plane crash in a larger map

 

There are conflicting reports on the type of plane involved, with some saying it is a light airplane and some saying it is an ultralight.

Police rescue, fire and ambulance crews are currently in attendance.

The crash has started a grass fire.

There are reports of a debris field 40 to 50 metres long and the plane is believed to have been completely destroyed.

Topics:  lismore airport, plane crash


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