The Coroner’s Court inquest into the ultralight crash in May 2010 that killed Michael O’Keeffe and Josef Hainaut moved to the scene of the accident off Kings Lane, Tatham yesterday.
The Coroner’s Court inquest into the ultralight crash in May 2010 that killed Michael O’Keeffe and Josef Hainaut moved to the scene of the accident off Kings Lane, Tatham yesterday. Cathy Adams

Ultralight was airworthy

THE INVESTIGATOR of an ultralight aircraft crash that killed two men at Tatham in 2010 has told a coronial investigation he would not have been flying in the aircraft as he knew it had been ditched into the ocean in 2005.

Despite this, John Gardon told Lismore Coroners Court when he inspected the wreckage that Josef Hainaut, 20, of South Lismore and Michael O'Keefe, 27, of Georgica were killed in, he was satisfied the plane was in an airworthy condition before it crashed in a paddock near Smiths Ln.

The crash occurred after the two men took off from Casino airport on the morning of May 7 and flew to Lismore, with the crash occurring on their return to Casino.

Mr Gardon said he found no evidence of engine failure in the wreckage despite two witnesses reporting they heard the plane's engine cut before it fell into a spin and plummeted from the sky.

He told the court before he investigated the wreckage he was aware the plane had been fully submersed after it was ditched into the ocean off Stradbroke Island in 2005 by its former owner.

The court heard Mr O'Keefe bought the ultralight in 2008 and it was inspected by local flying instructor Wayne Fisher.

In his inspection Mr Fisher noted that the aircraft's wings needed corrosion treatment and one of the working cables needed replacing.

Mr Gardon said his assessment of the cable after the crash was that it was serviceable but in poor condition.

He told the court Mr O'Keefe had a reputation among the local flying fraternity and he had heard of, but not seen, him performing illegal spins in his ultralight.

A DVD was tendered in evidence of several YouTube video clips of Mr O'Keefe performing spins in his ultralight.

Mr Gardon said he believed the men died after not recovering from a spin.

"The pilot posted self-incriminating video on YouTube performing the same manoeuvre I believe caused the crash," he wrote in his report to Recreational Aviation Australia.

The inquest also heard evidence from witnesses and neighbours Simone Pasco and John Pirlo.

Mrs Pasco told the court of coming out her back door and hearing the aircraft before she saw it. She said then the engine cut and the plane glided before several attempts to re-start it failed.

Then she said the plane pitched nose down and spun five times before it disappeared from sight.

"I saw the aircraft spiralling toward the ground," she said.

"While it was spiralling the wings were intact."

Mr Pirlo's evidence backed-up Mrs Pasco in all areas except he couldn't recall seeing the plane gliding and the attempts to restart the engine.

The inquest continues today.



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