Five people killed in light plane crash in Queensland

Five people have been confirmed dead in a light plane crash in Queensland.

The light plane hit the ground and burst into flames on Saturday at Caboolture Airport, near Brisbane. It is believed the passengers on board were skydivers.

Emergency services rushed to the scene and fire crews extinguished the blaze. Photographs from the site show devastating debris spread over the ground.

A Queensland Fire and Rescue Service spokeswoman described the incident as a "significant crash". Emergency services were confronted with a fire on arriving at the scene late Saturday morning, she said.

"Because it was a light plane, [the fire] was relatively easy to control," she said. 

Adrenalin Skydivers Bribie, also known as Skydive Bribie Island, was operating the flight, a company spokesman confirmed.

The spokesman declined to comment further.

A Caboolture Aero Club spokesman earlier would not confirm reports that the plane belonged to one of several skydiving firms that use the strip.

He told Fairfax there was a "fair idea" who the plane belonged to but until confirmation had been received, it would be wrong to speculate.

"The aircraft cannot be identified at this time – and I'm standing 50 metres from it," he said.

The small Caboolture airfield sits approximately one hour’s drive north of Brisbane and is well-known to commuters on the Bruce Highway as aircraft can often be viewed landing or taking off above the road.

Gliders, helicopters and light aircraft are regular fixtures at the site which has only grass airstrips and is also used by flying instructors.

Five years ago popular pilot’s forum the Professional Pilots Rumour Network (PPRuNe) featured a running post criticising the airstrip as the ‘‘crappiest airfield" in Australia. 

The post alleged the airfield was plagued with overgrown grass, bog holes, narrow taxi-ways, and unmarked culverts. It also claimed that because it was built next to a dump, there was a permanent hazard caused by ibis and kangaroos.

The same contributor also highlighted potential issues with both trees at the end of the south-east runway and powerlines. Another expressed concern about crosswinds, while a different pilot suggested the airfield was ‘‘cheaper’’ for pilots to use than other more developed runways in the region.

But the Caboolture Aero Club spokesman said there was no suggestion Saturday’s tragedy was connected to the airfield, dismissing the PPRuNe post.

‘‘It’s an uncontrolled airport with unsealed runways and, yes, there are kangaroos and birds,’’ he said.

However, he stressed the airfield safety surveyor that assesses the field once a year, and who reports directly to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, had described it as ‘‘the best airfield on the east coast''.

‘‘This place is in absolutely glorious condition and I mean long grass doesn’t exist,’’ the spokesman said.

Grahame Hill, director of aircraft operations for the nation's peak skydiving body, the Australian Parachute Federation, was boarding a plane to Brisbane from Sydney on Saturday afternoon to help with the investigation.

He said the skydiving community was devastated by the crash.

"I've spoken to some people up there and they're just gutted; it's terrible," Mr Hill said.

Mr Hill said that the company involved specialised in skydiving trips over Bribie Island.

"It's too early to tell what's happened, but obviously something has gone wrong with the plane because it crashed right after take-off.

"This isn't a skydiving accident, it's a plane accident; they were just on their way to do the skydiving."

He said the skydiving company, which he did not name, was a popular one and had never been involved in any incidents before.

"I'm on my way there now to do whatever I can to assist.

"Our association's role is to regulate the safety of the industry and that's what I'm on my way there to do."

smh.com.au, with Anne Tarasov

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