The Westpac rescue helicopter joins the search
The Westpac rescue helicopter joins the search

Search widens for couple missing after crash

THE search continues today for a man and woman whose plane went missing in Moreton Bay following a distress call on Wednesday.

Police say the search has now been widened to include an area north of Stradbroke Island.

Two water police vessels are conducting extensive sonar imaging searches in the Flinders Reef area north of Moreton Island along with three Volunteer Marine Rescue vessels searching for debris in an area north of Stradbroke Island and jet ski searches of the South Passage Bar.

Aerial searches of an area north of Stradbroke Island will be completed today by helicopter and patrols of the shoreline of both Moreton and Stradbroke Island by police in vehicles and on foot.

The distress call was made by the pilot, a 70-year-old man, and his wife, a 52-year-old woman, around 4.30pm on Wednesday, instigating an extensive air and sea search.

AMSA yesterday said expert medical advice indicated the impact would not have been survivable.

"All evidence indicates the aircraft ditched into the water at high speed," a statement said.

"Significant amounts of debris belonging to the aircraft have been recovered to the east of Moreton Island."

 

 

Experienced pilot and TV traffic reporter Ben Mihan was in the air at the time the mayday call sounded across his aeroplane radio.

"It was a gut wrenching feeling," he said. "As a pilot I knew that when a plane goes off the radar like that, and when there was no second mayday call, something catastrophic had happened."

Mr Mihan said the radio call was hard to decipher due to other noise on the radio, but said there was one call for mayday, before the radio fell silent.

The call sounded as Mr Mihan and his helicopter pilot were on the way back to Redcliffe Airport following a traffic report. 

Mr Mihan said his first instinct was to help in any way he could. 

The missing plane is believed to be this Cessna 182 hired from a Sunshine Coast flight school for a private flight.
The missing plane is believed to be this Cessna 182 hired from a Sunshine Coast flight school for a private flight.

"My gut instinct was to get the camera out and use it to try locate where it went down," he said.

"I tried to see if there was any fire or smoke or if it had made impact with land. I looked around the water but unfortunately the waters were murky and hard to see into."

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority, with the assistance of Queensland Water Police, Redcliffe Coast Guard, Volunteer Marine Rescue, RACQ LifeFlight and other volunteers, resumed their search at first light this morning.

The missing plane is believed to be a Cessna 182 hired from a Sunshine Coast flight school for a private flight.

Air traffic logs reveal the pilot making the mayday call to Brisbane air traffic control centre.

The control centre confirms the mayday call but the pilot is not heard from again.

A rescue helicopter returns to base at Caloundra Aerodrome where a charter plane departed on Wednesday afternoon. Picture: Lachie Millard
A rescue helicopter returns to base at Caloundra Aerodrome where a charter plane departed on Wednesday afternoon. Picture: Lachie Millard

 

Debris located overnight have been confirmed as pieces of the plane that disappeared off the radar around 4.30pm on Wednesday.

Police have advised a nose wheel and a large piece of sheet metal are among the debris found by crews working to find a husband and wife, who were travelling in a light plane when it crashed into the ocean near Moreton Island.

Inspector Craig White of the Queensland Police Service said the couple's next of kin, including their adult daughter, had earlier been told the chances of the pair being found alive were slim.

"It's a terrible time for the family because they still have no certainty as to the welfare of their loved ones," he said.

Insp White said the 70-year-old pilot had significant flying experience, and had flown approximately six hours in the past four days.

Some of that time was spent in the plane that crashed.

The Queensland Police Service has taken over coordination and will be launching a recovery effort.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau will examine the wreckage after it was recovered from the water today.

"The aircraft departed Caloundra Aerodrome with the pilot and a passenger on board for a private flight, sightseeing around Moreton Island. At 1626, the pilot broadcast a Mayday call. A search and rescue operation was then initiated," a statement released by the bureau said.

"As part of the investigation, the ATSB will examine wreckage recovered from the aircraft and review air traffic control recordings. The ATSB will also interview any witnesses and review aircraft records, pilot records and meteorological information."

The ATSB will release its report once the investigation is complete.


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