Three dead in firefighting plane crash in outback Qld
Three members of an aerial firefighting crew have died after their light plane crashed in remote northwest Queensland.
A member of the public raised the alarm about 2.30pm on Saturday, reporting the crash near a mine site northwest of McKinlay, near Cloncurry.
Police said a rescue helicopter crew spotted the wreckage and officers arrived on the scene about 5pm, confirming all three on board had died.
Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) said the aircraft had been engaged to conduct line scans and was travelling from Toowoomba to Mt Isa when it crashed.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Fire and Emergency Services Minister Mark Ryan released a statement on Saturday night expressing their sympathy to the family, friends and colleagues of the crew.
The three had been playing a critical role in saving lives and protecting property by their intelligence and mapping work from the air to help firefighters on the ground, they said.
“I am terribly saddened by what has happened,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
“The crew on board this aircraft have been doing everything they could to protect Queenslanders.
“I send my heartfelt condolences to the many people who have been impacted by this shocking incident.”
Mr Ryan said the tragedy would hit the aerial firefighting teams hard.
“So many of them know each other, work together, dedicate themselves to the same goal, to keep everyone safe,” he said.
QFES also offered its condolences to the crew members’ families.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families at this time,” it said in a statement.
QFES said the aircraft that crashed was the same type as one that is used as the lead plane for the large aerial tanker (LAT), used to fight bushfires.
“Both the LAT and the lead plane will be grounded until advised by authorities.”
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese praised the firefighters’ bravery.
“All Australians’ thoughts are with the family, friends, and all who know the brave firefighters who’ve lost their lives as a result of the fatal air accident that occurred in North Queensland,” he said on Saturday evening while on a visit to China.
“We know the people who fight fires and stand up in emergency services, risk their lives, each and every day to assist their fellow Australians, and to assist the communities,” Mr Albanese said.
“Today our hearts go out to them.”
The Australian Transport and Safety Bureau said a team of investigators from Brisbane were preparing to travel to the accident site.
A preliminary report is anticipated in about six to eight weeks, the ATSB said.
Queensland Police are also investigating and will prepare a report for the coroner.AAP