Victoria Police have located the wreckage of an SIAI-Marchetti S-211 light aircraft that crashed in Port Phillip Bay on Sunday.
The aircraft, VH-DZJ (pictured), collided with another S-211 in mid-air approximately 12km west of Mount Martha in southeast Melbourne and went down, while the other aircraft, VH-DQJ, returned safely to Essendon. Pilot Stephen Gale and cameraman James Rose are presumed dead.
“After searching water, a large part of the body of the plane was located off the shore of Mornington. Police are working to remove the fuselage of the plane from the water, at which time it will be searched,” Victoria Police wrote in a statement on Tuesday, urging anyone with information to contact Crime Stoppers.
“It is believed a 56-year-old Brunswick man and a 30-year-old Surrey Hills man were on board the plane at the time of the incident. Investigators are working to establish the exact circumstances of the incident and investigations remain ongoing.”
Both aircraft were owned by Mr Gale’s flying school Jetworks Aviation, which notes on its website that the S-211s – formerly used by the Singapore air force for jet training – are “not required to meet any safety standard recognised by CASA”.
ATSB chief commissioner Angus Mitchell told 3AW Mornings on Monday that investigators believed the incident to have happened during a promotional shoot while the planes were in close proximity.
“We will go into great detail around maintenance records, pilot qualifications and past ‘sorties’ that have been conducted,” he said.
“It’s not only detailing what’s occurred but it’s all the things that potentially failed … whether it’s mechanical or potentially human.”
The ATSB said it will release a preliminary report in approximately two months, with a final report to come at the conclusion of the investigation.
“ATSB transport safety investigators are preparing to gather evidence from a range of sources including conducting interviews, retrieving all available recorded data, and gathering weather, aircraft maintenance, operator procedure and pilot information and documentation,” the bureau wrote in a statement.
“The ATSB asks anyone who may have witnessed and has footage of the accident, or who has footage of the aircraft in any phase of their flights, to contact us via the witness form on our website at their earliest convenience.”