Warwick horseman and mum-of-five die in plane crash

 

Two Queenslanders in the middle of an Outback adventure have been killed when their plane plummeted to the ground in South Australia - the passenger who died wasn't supposed to be on the aircraft.

The pilot was Peter Gesler, 59, from Greymare in south-east Queensland, a well-known and highly respected horseman at the Warwick Rodeo.

He co-owned a horse stud at Greymare, and also owned astockfeed company at Laidley.

His passenger Rachel Whitford, 48, a retired Queensland police officer from Wynnum and mother of five, made a fateful, last-minute decision to switch planes for the last leg of the day's sight-seeing.

A pilot and his passenger are dead after the light plane they were in plummeted to the ground in the South Australian Outback last night. Emergency services were called to Leigh Creek Airport, 539km north of Adelaide, at 6.24pm amid reports of a crash north of the facility. Picture: Simon Cross
A pilot and his passenger are dead after the light plane they were in plummeted to the ground in the South Australian Outback last night. Emergency services were called to Leigh Creek Airport, 539km north of Adelaide, at 6.24pm amid reports of a crash north of the facility. Picture: Simon Cross

It is understood the group had been staying at Marree and flew over Lake Eyre ­before refuelling at William Creek.

They bought ice creams and other items at the William Creek Hotel and appeared to be in a rush, because they were planning to fly to Leigh Creek, but it was getting late, taking off about 4pm.

Deceased passenger Rachel Whitford, 48, a retired Queensland police officer from Wynnum and mother of five, made a fateful, last-minute decision to switch planes. Picture: Richard Walker
Deceased passenger Rachel Whitford, 48, a retired Queensland police officer from Wynnum and mother of five, made a fateful, last-minute decision to switch planes. Picture: Richard Walker

It is believed that they were intending to meet friends in Leigh Creek and stay the night there.

The crash site is on flat scrubland surrounded by bare hills. The only visible remains of the plane is the intact blue tail section of the aircraft.

The Brumby 610 is a kit plane, which in some cases can be built by pilots themselves. There is also a Brumby factory in Cowra, NSW. How and where the hired plane was built will form part of an investigation into the crash.

The plane plummeted to the ground in the South Australian Outback last night. Emergency services were called to Leigh Creek Airport, 539km north of Adelaide, at 6.24pm amid reports of a crash north of the facility. Picture: Simon Cross
The plane plummeted to the ground in the South Australian Outback last night. Emergency services were called to Leigh Creek Airport, 539km north of Adelaide, at 6.24pm amid reports of a crash north of the facility. Picture: Simon Cross

Peter Thompson, from the Leigh Creek Caravan Park, said he saw the plane just ­before it crashed.

"There was a group of us sitting around the fire when we saw his green wing light over to the north, heading east," he said. "I took more interest than normal because he seemed to be off course. He appeared to turn and come back and then turn again.

"I didn't know if he was in trouble or not, but I had a funny feeling. Planes normally come straight over the park to the runway."

Australian Campdraft Association vice-president Sean Dillon said Mr Gesler's death had shocked the community.

"The whole campdrafting fraternity lends its heartfelt condolences to the family," Mr Dillon said.

The pilot was Peter Gesler, 59, from Greymare in south-east Queensland, a well-known and highly respected horseman at the Warwick Rodeo.
The pilot was Peter Gesler, 59, from Greymare in south-east Queensland, a well-known and highly respected horseman at the Warwick Rodeo.

"He contributed a lot to our sport and had a big impact on the breeding side of things.

"It's a horrifically tragic thing that's happened," he said. Meanwhile, a post on the ­Variety Bash Queensland Facebook page paid tribute to Ms Whitford.

"We are shocked and ­saddened to advise the Variety Family of the sudden passing of former Variety Basher, ­Rachel Whitford, in a plane crash last night in outback South Australia. Rachel was a member of the PCYC Youth Patrol Variety Bash Team for a number of years," the post read.

Warwick man and mum of five die in SA outback plunge
Warwick man and mum of five die in SA outback plunge

SA Police and Recreational Aviation Australia are investigating the incident.

RAA chief executive officer Michael Linke said two RAA investigators would investigate the circumstances surrounding the crash.

"As you would appreciate, given the remoteness of the location, this will take some time," he said.

Mr Linke said it was too early to speculate on what caused the smash.

"Our investigation will consider environmental, mechanical and human factors," he said.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has been notified of the crash and will provide assistance if needed.

A temporary air exclusion zone has been established.

A report will be prepared for the coroner.



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