No mayday call before ‘catastrophic’ plane crash
NO MAYDAY call was made before a charter plane slammed into a sand dune - killing all five on-board - in a "catastrophic" air disaster on Cape York.
Graphic footage taken at the site shows how the Cessna 404 Titan smashed into pieces on the side of a sand hill at about 10m above the waterline, near Lockhart River township, 760km north of Cairns, at 9.44am on Wednesday.
Wreckage is strewn over about a 20m radius in thick scrub as investigators try to piece together the final ill-fated moments of the flight of VH-OZO after a botched first attempt to land on the former WWII runway.
"It is a catastrophic scene and very difficult to reach,'' Cape York Police Inspector Mark Henderson said yesterday.
He said investigators would do the best they can to give closure to the families but the recovery of the bodies was expected to take several days.
Family and friends paid tribute to Q-Build workers Wayne Ganter, 63, Mark Rawlings, 49, and Wayne Brischke, 57, who died in the crash. Pilot Stuart Wavell, 36, and Henry Roebig, 62, were also killed with all five victims from Cairns.
It has emerged another Q-Build worker was pulled off the doomed charter at the last minute in a move that saved his life.
Lockhart River Mayor Wayne Butcher fought back tears as the victims were identified saying the worker who was taken off the trip should "buy a lotto ticket".
"They were all top blokes. I'm gutted,'' he said.
"Why was the plane so low? When it missed the first landing, as it circled around, another plane snuck in and landed."
Weather charts show the cloud base was below 800ft, with marginal visibility in cloud, rain and squally conditions.
Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) investigators will begin the on-site evidence collection phase of the investigation on Friday.
Officials confirmed there was no mayday call or radio contact with the pilot in the final moments before the crash to explain how he missed the first landing attempt or why he was flying so low.
The Q-Build crew had been flying in and out of the remote aboriginal township as project managers of an extension to the Lockhart River primary school putting on extra classrooms and replacing toilets since January.
Health and Safety officer Wayne Ganter, 63, had spent much of the last ten years working in construction industry in isolated indigenous communities.
"He taught us to be conscientious and brave, and we know that's how he would have been in his last moments," his son Jake said.
His Dad, survived by wife Lisa, was a father of three and grandfather of five, and was "loyal, honest and hardworking".
"First and foremost he was a family man, devoting his time to providing, teaching and making sacrifices for us that we will always be truly grateful for," he said.
"He was passionate about construction, where he had spent his working life and continued his employment in the safety realm to help others enjoy construction as he had," Jake said.
Friends of 49-year-old victim Mark Rawlings described him as "the life of the party", an "amazing mate" and "a beautiful, loving, generous person".
"You lived life like you stole it," one friend penned in a tribute.
Another added: "You were beautiful inside and out. I am going to miss you with all my heart."
Born and bred Far North man Wayne Brischke, 57, was the main project manager and a "top bloke" who loved fishing but who had also been dealt his own triple-tragedy in life.
The father-of-three and grandfather-of-two tragically lost both his parents Edward and Cecilee Brischke in a fatal crash at Wrights Creek just south of Cairns in 2009, and his beloved wife Mary to cancer in 2013.
Housing and Public Works Minister Mick de Brenni described the incident as a "devastating event".
"Five people went to work and they never came home - we all mourn the loss of our colleagues and friends," he said.
"QBuild staff and tradies are always there when Queenslanders need them most and their dedication to serving our community will not be forgotten.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by this tragedy."
A Housing and Public Works spokesman said they were providing support to their staff.
"We are shocked and deeply saddened by the tragic loss of five lives, including three QBuild staff and a QBuild contractor," he said.
"Our thoughts are with their families and friends."
The ATSB noted the aircraft was not required to be fitted with a cockpit voice recorder, but other recorded data may be available to investigators.
On-site tasks will include mapping the wreckage, gathering relevant debris, materials and avionics instruments for further analysis at ATSB technical facilities.