Formally identifying the victims of Friday’s fatal light plane crash at Lake George, near Canberra, could take weeks due to the “total destruction” of the plane.
The 65-year-old pilot, his 11-year-old grandson and two granddaughters aged nine and six were killed when the five-seat Cirrus SR22 registered VH-MSF plummeted to the ground and exploded.
The pilot was highly experienced and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) said on Saturday that teams were already examining the crash site at a paddock at Gundaroo, north of Queanbeyan.
“It will be a difficult undertaking given the state of the rubble,” said Colin McNamara of the ATSB.
“But over the next few days, I have full confidence that investigators will gather as much information and evidence as possible from the accident scene.”
Mr McNamara said ATSB teams would monitor for spilled chemicals, burned carbon fibers and possible explosive materials.
The single-engine, five-seat Cirrus SR22 VH-MSF crashed and burst into flames near Lake George in the New South Wales Tablelands at around 2:52 p.m. Friday.
The crashed plane was registered to Up N Up Aviation, owned by Mike Cahill (pictured), president of the Redcliffe Aero Club.
Investigators said the crash was the cause of the crash and identifying the victims would be difficult due to the level of destruction.
The plane had taken off from Canberra on a 750km journey to Armidale in northern New South Wales.
Bunya’s Brisbane pilot is said to have had hundreds of hours of flying experience, while his grandchildren are believed to be from New South Wales.
The plane was registered to Up N Up Aviation, owned by Mike Cahill, president of the Redcliffe Aero Club in Brisbane. It is not clear who was at the controls of the 21-year-old plane when it fell from the sky.
It crashed minutes after takeoff, having climbed to 9,000 feet before rapidly losing altitude and crashing into the ground where it burst into flames.
The single-engine plane exploded on impact around 2:50 p.m.
The Redcliffe Aero Club released a statement Saturday following the accident.
“The Redcliffe Aero Club expresses its deepest condolences to the family of the pilot and passengers tragically killed on Friday October 6, 2023,” the organization said.
“The pilot was active in the social aspect of the club with many hours of flying experience.”
The Redcliffe Aero Club in Queensland released a statement on Saturday saying the pilot was active with their club.
The light plane crashed (pictured) in Canberra’s north-east on Friday afternoon before the plane caught fire.
Emergency crews (pictured) arrived on scene after the accident as firefighters from the Rural Fire Service worked quickly to extinguish the flames.
Flight information shows the single-engine plane arrived in Canberra on Wednesday after transiting through Armidale from Redcliffe, north of Brisbane.
It appears that the plane disappeared from radar screens 16 minutes after takeoff on Friday.
Mr McNamara praised the first responders on the scene.
“These are indeed tragic circumstances exacerbated by the news that children were involved,” he said.
He also asked any other witnesses to the accident to contact the ATSB.
“Yesterday we were contacted by a number of witnesses who we are very grateful for. This prompts me to say that if anyone has any relevant information regarding this accident, please visit our website.
The Cirrus SR-22 is a single-engine aircraft and one of the most popular general aviation aircraft in the world, regularly topping global best-seller lists.
Six minutes after takeoff, the plane plunged sharply near Lake George, with air traffic control unable to establish communication with the pilot.
The area was still on fire when help arrived and firefighters quickly extinguished the fire.
“When police arrived with RFS services there was a small grass fire and obviously a catastrophic crash of a small light aircraft,” Police Commissioner Cath Bradbury said.
“The RFS shut down the aircraft – unfortunately there are no survivors. They have not yet been formally identified. A report will be prepared for the coroner.
The Cirrus SR-22, manufactured in the United States, is a single-engine aircraft and one of the most popular general aviation aircraft in the world, regularly topping global best-seller lists.
Mr McNamara said engineers would study the plane’s maintenance log as well as the pilot’s flight history.
The ATSB’s preliminary report is expected to be released within two months.