Footage reveals terror before killer plane crash
VIDEO footage taken by a passenger on board the 1770 Castaway plane that crashed at Middle Island near Agnes Water in January showed the plane had performed steep turns, climbs and descents moments before it slammed into the sand.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau handed down its preliminary report into the crash that occurred on January 10 and left a UK woman dead and two others in a critical condition, including pilot Les Woodall.
The ATSB said it used the mobile phone footage, as well as GPS data, radar data and onsite investigations, to track and chart what the plane was doing before the crash.
Using the video footage the ATSB said the Cessna VH-WTQ had taken off at 10.30am normally before four minutes into the flight "the pilot conducted a series of manoeuvres including steep turns, steep climbs and descents".
"After about six minutes flight time, and after a second series of (steep turns, climbs and descents)…the engine power momentarily reduced before recovering," the preliminary report reads.
But one minute later "the engine sustained a sudden power loss", which resulted in Mr Woodall making the decision to head for the beach to land.
Without much time to consider his options, Mr Woodall told the ATSB he believed landing on the beach was the safest way to land the plane.
Two witnesses reported to the ATSB that they saw the aircraft flying parallel to the beach before turning left at steep angle.
"The left wingtip struck the ground and then the nose, before the aircraft came to rest about 5m past the nose impact point," the report states.
Owner of 1770 Castaway Bruce Rhoades was flying about 4km behind his good mate Mr Woodall, but reported to the ATSB that he did not see the plane crash.
After seeing the wreckage below, Mr Rhoades previously told The Observer he broadcasted a mayday call to alert emergency services and landed his plane 100m from the crash.
He then ran to the plane and pulled out Mr Woodall and started performing CPR on the passenger who died.
A 13-year-old boy and an Irish woman, along with Mr Woodall, were seriously injured in the crash.
The report found that the airspeed of the plane had decreased to such an extent that the aircraft's stall warning horn sounded for about three seconds, before the plane "rolled left and pitched nose down" and hit the sand.
Speaking to The Observer three weeks ago, Mr Rhoades said his tourism business would use boats instead of planes to take backpackers to Middle Island for its survivor tour camps.
According to police, who are assisting the ATSB in its investigation, Mr Rhoades was issued a notice to ground, which meant he was not allowed to fly until further notice.
But Mr Rhoades claimed he was issued with a suspension notice, which still enabled him to fly but not for charter.
The ATSB was continuing the investigation into the crash.