Australia

Seaplane's crash history to form part of year-long investigation into NYE tragedy

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Investigators say a previous incident involving the seaplane that crashed in the Hawkesbury River will form part of the probe into what led to the deaths of six people.

Australian Transport Safety Bureau investigators will take 12 months to deliver their final report into what led to a fatal crash that killed six people on New Year's Eve.

Most of the wreckage of a seaplane that crashed at Jerusalem Bay on the Hawkesbury River, north of Sydney, has been lifted from the riverbed onto a barge.

The plane's cabin was pulled to the surface about 1.45pm on Thursday almost three hours after the floats and a damaged wing were first pulled from the water.

The bureau's Nat Nagy said they had conducted a number of interviews to help their investigation in piecing together what happened.

He said he was also aware of the seaplane's previous history and said the factors involved in that incident would form part of ATSB investigation.

It was revealed on Thursday the plane was previously involved in another fatal incident in November 1996.

The DHC-2 Beaver was used as a crop duster near Armidale when its left wing hit the ground causing the plane to cartwheel and crash killing the pilot, a safety bureau report states.

 

The investigation into the New Year's Eve crash will now turn to determining what led to the crash and improving safety to make sure an incident like this would never happen again.

The recovered seaplane would be transported to a "secure facility" where a team will examine the wreckage before collected evidence will be analysed in Canberra.

"What we will now do over the next number of days is conclude our on-site phase of the investigation," he said.

"Then we will return to Canberra where we will begin analysing the collected evidence before producing, initially, a preliminary report into the factual circumstances surrounding the accident in around 30 days.

"Then over the course of the next 12 months, we will complete a report that will aim to find out exactly what went wrong with the goal of improving safety and preventing an accident like this happening again in the future."

NSW Police's Detective Superintendent Mark Hutchings said the seaplane had suffered "severe damage" and there had "been quite an impact on hitting the water".

The recovery operation started at dawn and was conducted by water police. It involved specialist divers attaching slings to pieces of the plane before they were pulled up to the barge using a crane.

The wreckage of the DHC-2 Beaver was taken by barge to Bayview where it will be placed on a truck and taken to a secure facility to be examined by ATSB investigators.

Earlier on Thursday, an ATSB spokeswoman said they would "carefully assess all aspects related to the aircraft's airworthiness".

Experienced Canadian pilot Gareth Morgan died along with high-profile UK businessman Richard Cousins, his two adult sons Edward and William, his fiancee Emma Bowden and her 11-year-old daughter Heather when the plane plunged into Jerusalem Bay on December 31.

It was revealed on Thursday the plane was previously involved in another fatal incident in November 1996.

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Minute's silence held for British family killed in New Year's Eve seaplane crash

The DHC-2 Beaver was used as a crop duster near Armidale when its left wing hit the ground causing the plane to cartwheel and crash killing the pilot, a safety bureau report states.

It was rebuilt and has since been owned by several businesses including, most recently, Sydney Seaplanes.

Civil Aviation Safety Authority spokeswoman Peter Gibson told AAP the plane was repaired according to the manufacturer's specifications and checked by qualified engineers.

"They submitted the paperwork and it was re-registered and away it went again," Mr Gibson said on Thursday.

"It was all done as it should have been done."

 

The ATSB is working to determine why the seaplane went down on New Year's Eve. One possibility is the plane stalled.

CASA has confirmed a stall warning system was not installed in the Beaver but neither was one required.

"We have no idea whether this was in fact caused by an aerodynamic stall or not," Mr Gibson added.

A Canadian report, published in September 2017 following a fatal crash involving a DHC-2 Beaver, recommended that warning systems be made mandatory.

But aircraft maintenance engineer Michael Greenhill told AAP this week "even if the Beaver (that crashed in NSW) had this system fitted there's a large possibility there would have been insufficient time to rectify the situation due to the low altitude and approaching terrain".

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