Search and rescue team locates plane wreckage in rugged Southwest
THE search for a plane and its solo pilot missing in Tasmania’s rugged Southwest National Park has ended in tragedy.
Tasmania Police last night confirmed a rescue team working the remote area had located the wreckage of the twin-engine Par Avion aircraft, which had been reported missing earlier in the day. “Sadly, there is a zero per cent chance of survivability,” the statement, issued at 11.30pm said.
“At 7.10pm, the plane was located by the Westpac Rescue Helicopter at West Portal, near the western Arthur Range.
“Tragically, it was determined by the highly experienced search and rescue police on board that the pilot could not have survived the crash.”
Search and rescue teams had first mobilised when the plane’s emergency beacon was activated about 8.30am while the pilot was making a routine flight to Melaleuca to collect a group of tourists.
POLICE say there is no chance a pilot who crashed in a twin-engine plane in the Southwest National Park yesterday has survived.
Search and rescue teams led by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority battled poor weather to comb the rugged wilderness for hours yesterday after the pilot’s beacon was activated about 8.30am.
While there was no result during the day, the grim discovery came in the evening.
A crew on the Westpac Rescue helicopter found the plane wreckage at West Portal, near the Arthur Range, about 7.10pm last night.
“Tragically, it was determined by the highly experienced search and rescue police on board that the pilot could not have survived the crash,” police said in a statement.
“The conditions were such that it was too dangerous for the search and rescue members to be winched down to the scene at that time.”
Police will helicopter an investigation team to the site today.
Inspector Dave Wiss said only investigators and forensic officers with search and rescue training would be choppered to the steep and dangerous terrain.
“Our thoughts are with the family at this difficult time,” Insp Wiss said.
“We remain in contact and we will continue to provide them with the information we currently know to assist them in coming to terms with this terrible accident.”
The pilot with Hobart wilderness tour operator Par Avion was travelling to Melaleuca yesterday morning to collect a tour group.
Speaking yesterday before the plane was found, Airlines of Tasmania managing director Shannon Wells said his company had been in regular contact with the pilot’s family during the search effort.
“The tracking system shows the aircraft was in the air for about 40 minutes and followed the usual route before getting into trouble over the Arthur Ranges,” Mr Wells said. “We do not know with certainty what went wrong and can only speculate as to what has occurred, but based on Bureau of Meteorology reports, we believe weather may have been a factor.”
The area was covered in low cloud for much of the day.
Mr Wells said the pilot had done the flight many times and that the aircraft, a twin-engine plane, was suited for flights into the Southwest park.
“The aircraft is fitted with an emergency location beacon in addition to the satellite tracker, so we have a reasonably good idea of the location of where the aircraft was last positioned,” Mr Wells said.
The crash is before the Coroner and will be investigated by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau.
Tasmania Police sent a four-person ground crew to the Southwest National Park yesterday afternoon.
The crew, including three police searchers and one Ambulance Tasmania paramedic, was dropped into the area by the Westpac helicopter about 5pm. The police team was using direction-finding equipment to locate the missing plane’s beacon.
Earlier, two police helicopters and an Australian Maritime Safety Authority Challenger jet from Essendon worked through poor weather for several hours trying to locate the plane.