News Plane Crashes — 26 October 2017

A PILOT killed after his light plane crashed and caught fire in dense bush north-west of Albany has been identified as local man Sam Ferns.

Mr Ferns, 40, is understood to have moved to the Great Southern town from the Eastern States for work and was an experienced pilot.

He was employed last summer by the Department of Parks and Wildlife as a contract water-bomber and was sent to blazes across the region during the fire season.

It is believed Mr Ferns, originally from Victoria, was flying his private plane from Albany to Bunbury on Tuesday when the aircraft had engine trouble.

He was found dead in the wreckage of the Cessna 210 by a paramedic from the RAC Rescue helicopter who was winched into the dense bush.

Pictures emerged yesterday showing the plane in pieces and spread through the thick bush about 30km north-west of Albany.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority has confirmed Mr Ferns was the only person aboard the plane, which was just minutes into its journey when it crashed about 11.15am.

 

The incident was reported by farmer Pieter Mostert, who had been working at his cattle property near the Mt Lindesay National Park crash site.

Mr Mostert told police he saw the plane having what he thought were engine problems, with it revving loudly before spiralling down and disappearing into the tree line.

A short time later he saw thick smoke where the plane had gone down a few kilometres into the bush.

He and his son, who was working on a tractor nearby, took note of the location and alerted emergency crews.

“We really made sure we took an accurate bearing of where we suspected it to go down,” he said.

“It was a dark, black smoke that lasted about 15 minutes and subsided to a lighter brown of smoke indicating that the bush might have been set alight by the explosion.”

The bushfire brigade officer waited by his radio to make sure rescuers could find the wreckage.

Australian Transport Safety Bureau investigators from Perth arrived in Albany yesterday morning and examined the crash scene after being briefed by police.

They are expected to spend at least two more days examining the site and aircraft, interviewing witnesses and gathering recorded flight data. Accessing the wreckage had been difficult for investigators and police, with a bulldozer needed to clear a path through the bush.

Once an access track was made, police officers from Albany guarded the site for forensic purposes until ATSB officials arrived.

It is understood there was no mayday call from the pilot before the plane went down.

The Cessna 210 aircraft is believed to have been manufactured in 1962 and was bought by Mr Ferns in 2012.

His family, who live interstate, have been notified by police.

The ATSB is expected to produce a preliminary report on the crash within 30 days.

The cause will likely not be officially determined for several months.

ATSB investigators want to speak to anyone who saw the crash or the plane flying in the area in the lead-up to the incident.

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