Witness to fatal light plane crash

TALIA SHADWELL
Last updated 16:01 23/03/2014

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A witness has described watching a small plane in Hastings this morning appear to stall in a mid-air climb then nose dive with a "bang" in a devastating impact that killed two people.

Matapiro resident Alison Arthur was outdoors feeding horses when the crash occurred.

"It was a little, tiny plane and it made a strange noise and it rolled a little bit too I think about a 45 degree angle in the water's direction as it was going up, then it nose-dived I heard this 'bang' and that was it. It was all gone."

The noise of the impact was so loud it spooked the four horses she was feeding and one bolted, clearing a fence, Arthur said.

She stood in shock unable to see where the plane had landed as she was on low-laying land shielded from the river by trees. Arthur said she did not know until she saw the news that it was a fatal crash.

"It was a bit spooky," she said.

Police say the victims found in the crashed plane thought to have been owned by the Bridge Pa Aero Club are yet to be identified.

The crash scene is difficult to access, and police say the Civil Aviation Authority remains at the scene this afternoon investigating the wreckage, which is currently sitting in about 1 metre of water.

A United Kingdom-trained commercial pilot and his instructor are confirmed to be the pair killed.

Speaking at a press conference this evening Hawkes Bay and East Coast aeroclub president Bruce Govenlock confirmed the UK-trained pilot visiting New Zealand was flying the plane and the instructor was a passenger at the time of the crash. 

Pilot Jeremy Bruce of the Lowe Corporation rescue helicopter was the first to spot the small plane's wreckage after the downed Tomahawk's emergency locator signal alerted rescuers to its position.

Bruce said he spotted the plane nose-down with it's tail sticking out of a deep channel. It was difficult to reach as it crashed in a section of braided river streams stretching about 400m wide.

However he managed to hover the helicopter about 10 metres away from the scene and the on-board paramedics confirmed the two aboard the plane, which was largely in one piece, were dead.

Where the plane had come down near Maraekakaho was a designated low-flying area used for training, he confirmed.

Bruce said today's crash was another blow only days after the death of Donald Carlton Kain, 53, in a helicopter crash in Gisborne on Thursday. Bruce knew the pilot who was hospitalised after the chopper crash and said it was heartbreaking to see today's wreck.

"I guess it hits home that it's a risky business."

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Sombre looking club members stood around the Bridge Pa aerodrome this afternoon and the car-park quickly filled up as news spread through the club community.

Members remained tight-lipped saying they did not want to talk about the incident.

- The Dominion Post

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