SYDNEY – A light aircraft used for skydiving crashed in an airfield in eastern Australia on Saturday and burst into flames, killing all five people on board, police said.
The plane veered left shortly after taking off from the Caboolture airstrip, 50 km north of Brisbane on Australia’s east coast, before plunging to the ground.
“We have a pilot and there were four skydivers on board and they were the only five people that were on board,” Queensland police superintendent Michael Brady told Sky News.
Brady said a male pilot, two skydiving instructors and two skydivers including a woman were on board, but could not confirm reports that their family members were watching as the plane plummeted to the ground.
Forensic investigators were at the scene but there was no immediate word on what caused the crash, with the airport closed until further notice.
Bryan Carpenter, who works at the airfield used mostly for small aircraft, said the plane was a Cessna 206, which was often used on skydiving flights. He told Sky News the burning high-octane fuel destroyed the plane immediately.
“On impact with the ground (the plane) burst into flames and there were no survivors,” he said. “This is the worst-ever fatality accident we’ve suffered (at Caboolture).”
Rescue workers quickly reached the scene and the fire was extinguished within minutes, Queensland Fire and Rescue Service said.
Mark Thompson, who was at the scene, told reporters that dozens of people rushed to help put out the fire but the heat forced them back.
“When I got there, there was nothing to be done,” he said. “There was just wreckage on the ground. It was well and truly burnt out.”
In September 2010, nine people were killed in a skydiving plane crash in New Zealand when the aircraft crashed and burst into flames shortly after takeoff near the Fox Glacier tourist spot. There were no survivors.