Storm cell, turbulence caused ‘in-flight break-up’

December 7, 2017
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TURBULENCE from a storm cell may have caused an “in-flight break-up” of a light plane that crashed in the Northern Territory, killing two Queensland pilots.

Darcy McCarter and Daniel Burrill were repatriating an indigenous man’s body from Darwin to Elcho Island in October when their Cessna 210 lost its wings, ripped through bushland and crashed on a rural road 30km from the airport.

“Witnesses in the vicinity of Howard Springs saw the aircraft descend rapidly in a relatively flat altitude with a portion of each wing missing,” a preliminary Australian Transport Safety Bureau report found.

Witnesses spotted clouds form over the Howard Springs area, which is normal in the build-up to the wet season in the Top End, and to avoid bad weather, the pilot diverted the plane right of the flight path shortly after take off.

“Some reported that the cloud went ‘very black’ at the time of the accident, and that starting about 10 minutes after the accident, it rained heavily for about an hour,” the ATSB report said.

“The developing cumulus clouds may have produced strong updrafts or downdrafts.” Examination of the single-engine, six-seater aircraft showed no pre-existing defects that could have contributed to the accident, and there was no evidence of a fire.

“The propeller did not exhibit any evidence of rotation at impact, consistent with fuel exhaustion resulting from the ruptured integral wing-fuel tanks,” the report said.

Shortly after the plane crashed, Darcy’s father Philip McCarter took to Facebook to express his grief.

According to The Courier Mail, Mr McCarter said he didn’t know what happened to “our beautiful boy”.

“The plane crashed and the two pilots on board didn’t make it. I am empty,” he wrote.

“As you can imagine we are all absolutely heartbroken and cannot believe this has happened.

“We have lost our darling boy and brother to Ella. We can’t imagine our lives without him and love him with all our hearts. We love you.”

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