Shock loss of local aviator
THE Queensland recreational aviation community is in shock following the death yesterday of Allora resident Peter Frith in a seaplane crash in southern New South Wales.
Mr Frith and Cooma man Richard Holgate died when the craft plummeted into Lake Jindabyne in the Snowy Mountains just after 11.30am yesterday, with the cause of the crash yet to be determined.
Initial reports suggest Mr Frith was acting as an agent for the manufacturer of the seaplane – a Super Petrel Ultralight – and that Mr Holgate was taking it on a two-hour test flight with a view to purchasing it.
A recovery operation later dragged the partially submerged plane to the shore with wire cables, a police spokesman told AAP.
The bodies of the two men were recovered when the aircraft was towed out of water and onto the shore at Hiawatha Point, an Ambulance NSW spokeswoman said.
Recovery operations were expected to continue into the night last night but police said they believed the two men were the only people on board the aircraft.
Mr Frith is understood to have maintained an aircraft hangar at the Massie Aerodrome north of Warwick and was an experienced pilot.
It is believed the aircraft involved in yesterday's tragedy was the first amphibious model of its kind in Australia, with Mr Frith having unveiled it at the Wings Over Warwick event in September.
Mr Frith was active in the Queensland Recreational Aircraft Association (QRAA) and was most recently its membership officer.
QRAA president and Upper Pilton resident Kelvin Hutchinson was last night travelling and unavailable for comment, but fellow committee member and local aviator Rob Behrend described Mr Frith's loss as a shock, saying he had flown the ultralight seaplane himself.
Recreational Aviation Australia president Eugene Reid said his organisation would help the NSW police with their inquiries.
“There will be some investigation, mainly to see whether it was a fault within the aircraft itself or whether it was a pilot error,” Mr Reid said.
“Most of the time with aircraft accidents it comes down to a pilot error, but occasionally there is a problem with the aircraft itself.
“If that's the case we will need to know in order to ensure a particular model doesn't have faults.”
Among those who saw the plane before it crashed was Viveka Hocking.
“Some kind of old-fashioned kind of plane, flying really low in from the mountains. It was quite unusual. I was wondering exactly what it was,” Ms Hocking told ABC Radio.
“Then a bit later I heard the noise. I didn't know it had crashed.
“It was like a propeller plane noise, relatively loud.”
A report into the crash will be prepared for the NSW coroner.