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4 killed after light plane crashed into sea in Brisbane

written by Hannah Dowling | December 21, 2021

File image of a Rockwell Commander 114, similar to the one involved in the crash (Wikicommons / James)

The ATSB has commenced an investigation after a light plane crashed into the sea near Redcliffe in northeast Brisbane shortly after take-off on Sunday.

The plane, a single-engine Rockwell Commander 114, collided with water near the Redcliffe Aerodrome just after 9am.

The wreckage was later found by authorities upturned in shallow water near the mangrove wetlands, after being spotted by another aircraft.

The pilot and owner of the aircraft, a 67-year-old male, and all three passengers onboard were killed in the crash, and the aircraft was destroyed.

The three passengers included a 41-year-old male and his two children, aged 10 and nine.

Meanwhile, the pilot’s family is said to have been present at the Redcliffe Aerodrome at the time of the incident.

Both families are “deeply traumatised” over the incident, according to Police Inspector Craig White.

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“This is a tragic accident … in the lead-up to Christmas and the last thing that any family need to go through at this time of the year, at any time,” he said.

It is not yet known what caused the crash, and the ATSB has commenced an investigation. A preliminary report into the crash will be available within eight weeks.

Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll said that finding and retrieving the plane from the crash site was challenging.

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“The plane is in a very, very difficult position in the wetland area and we have currently got police and divers [in] that area,” she said.

Australian Transport Safety Bureau chief commissioner Angus Mitchell said the organisation was working with Queensland police in the investigation.

“Early reports are that [the crash] was not long after take-off, but we’ll need to confirm that with air traffic control,” he said.

“Equally anything we can get from the aircraft itself, any types of recorders that may have been aboard the aircraft and any other information, such as witnesses, to confirm exactly what stage of flight [the crash happened].”

In a statement, the ATSB said it will begin the “evidence collection” stage of its investigation, including examination of the accident site and wreckage by its specialised investigators.

“The ongoing investigation will collect and examine other relevant evidence, including recorded data, weather information, witness reports and pilot and maintenance records,” the bureau said.

The incident bears a striking resemblance to another crash that occurred in August, which saw an amateur-built Acroduster Too aerobatic plane crash into mangrove wetlands in northeast Brisbane, near Bribie Island.

Reports suggested it took emergency services around an hour to locate and reach the plane’s wreckage due to its location in the mudflats, west of Bribie Island and north of Brisbane.

The pilot was the sole occupant onboard and was fatally injured in the crash.

A preliminary report by the ATSB later found that two eye bolts used to secure the aircraft’s upper wings failed due to fatigue cracking, causing an in-flight break up and ultimately seeing the rapid descent of the plane.

Comments (5)

  • Michael

    says:

    Given the pilot’s age, maybe a medical event with him caused loss of aircraft control?
    There’s a reason some pilots’ have to retire between 60 & 65.

    • fghjfhg

      says:

      That is possible of course Michael but highly unlikely. The chances of a medical event like you suggest are still incredibly low for someone in their 60s that has the still pass a pilots licence medical to carry passengers.

    • John C

      says:

      Michael, with due respect, possible, however, highly unlikely. Medical requirements for all pilots irrespective of their age, and there are plenty of us in this age bracket, are stringent. There could be several reasons such as mechanical issues, and the pilot’s reaction to that event during that phase of flight (from what I can see, the aircraft was on climb just after take-off and undercarriage still extended) as this phase of flight is the most critical given low altitude and airspeed as the aircraft gains altitude to planned cruising height. The issue with this tragic event is there are no (I believe) eyewitnesses and no recording devices unless passengers were videoing on personal devices. This incident will need to be left to the CASA Accident Investigation team (ATSB) to deduce what occurred and that will include an autopsy of the PIC to check whether a medical event was a contributing factor. Either way a distressing time for family members of the deceased, and my sincere condolences and best wishes to them at this time.

  • Peter Champness

    says:

    From what I have read so far, the engine failed. Then the auircarft was seen plunging into the swamp..
    Sounds like a turn back followed by stall spin to me on the available evidence.
    Curiouslly I wonder why this happens so often. As a glider pilot we practice the manouver and it is easy enough to put the nose down until airspeed is assured, then manourve. Despite that even glider pilots suffer the same fate often enough.

  • Nicholas Reese

    says:

    Eye witnesses report it was a failed attempt to turn back after loss of power on upwind.

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