A team of specialist investigators has been called in to carry out the difficult task of identifying the remains of three passengers killed in a violent plane crash.
The plane carrying three workers from Victoria-based flight charter company AGAIR crashed in ‘difficult terrain’ near the Eloise copper mine, south of Cloncurry, in north-west Queensland , around 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
The crew had been deployed to the region aboard a Rockwell 696 Jetprop to help fight bushfires in rural Queensland.
A disaster victim identification team will arrive at the scene to identify the bodies on Monday after the plane was engulfed in flames following the crash.
Investigators will visit the rural crime scene, currently guarded by police, and investigations are expected to last several days.
A specialist team of disaster investigators will arrive at the scene of a tragic plane crash in rural Queensland to help identify and repatriate three deceased passengers (photo, Rockwell 696 Jetprop)
Tom Armitt, Mount Isa district superintendent, said his officers had not yet examined the wreckage and would be at the scene throughout the week.
“They will complete and confirm all these details for us,” he said.
“In this case, we know who was on board the plane… we will rely on the disaster victim identification team to repatriate the deceased so that the relevant autopsies can take place and the full identity be confirmed from there.”
Supt Armitt said the investigation team would have to fly in from all over the country and then be transported to the crash site due to the rural nature of the site.
“We cannot provide any technical answers as to why this happened. We will do our best to conduct a thorough investigation,” he said.
“We truly sympathize with the families of the victims. At this point, we are in the very early stages of our investigation.
In addition to identifying the deceased, investigators will provide the coroner with details regarding the airworthiness of the aircraft and technical details of the flight.
The Rockwell 696 Jetprop crashed near the Eloise Mine, south of Cloncurry, in north-west Queensland, around 2.30pm on Saturday.
Although he was in China to meet Chinese General Secretary Xi Xingping, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese addressed the tragedy at a news conference.
“The thoughts of all Australians are with their family, friends and all those who know the brave firefighters who lost their lives following the fatal air crash in north Queensland,” Mr. Albanese.
“We know that the people who fight fires and respond to emergency services risk their lives every day to help their fellow Australians and their communities.” And today our thoughts are with them.
Prime Minister Albanese continued to pay tribute to the three people who died in the “terribly sad” accident in a message on X, formerly Twitter.
“Three brave souls working to help their fellow Australians have lost their lives in Queensland,” Mr Albanese wrote.
“A tragic reminder of the dangers faced by those on the frontline of bushfires. Sincere condolences to their loved ones and colleagues during this time of mourning.
The accident resulted in the deaths of three workers from a Victoria-based company who had been deployed to the area to help monitor nearby bushfires.
Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) paid tribute to the plane’s three passengers on Facebook.
“Our hearts are heavy following the fatal plane crash this afternoon in north-west Queensland and the tragic loss of three people supporting our bushfire response,” read a message from the QFES on Facebook.
“When natural disasters occur in Queensland, we respond as a family. This family includes those engaged to support our flight operations.
“Side by side, we are fighting these bushfires together and their losses are felt by all.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with their family, friends and those who worked alongside them, including our flight operations staff.”
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (pictured) paid tribute to the “three brave souls working to help their fellow Australians” while in China to meet General Secretary Xi Xingping.
In a statement AGAIR chief executive Rob Boschen confirmed the aircraft was “engaged in fire surveillance operations” at the time of the accident.
“The authorities have confirmed that three of our valued and dear collaborators were the only occupants of the plane and that there were no survivors,” Mr. Boschen wrote.
“We are completely devastated and our deepest thoughts and prayers go out to the families of our staff.
“AGAIR will provide full assistance and support to all authorities during their investigations.”
Similar aircraft used by QFES for fire monitoring will be temporarily grounded until investigations are concluded.