Three dead in firefighting plane crash in outback Queensland | Queensland

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A Victorian aviation company has confirmed one of its planes crashed while engaged in fire surveillance in remote north-west Queensland, killing three of its “dearly loved” staff.

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.

A rescue helicopter crew spotted the wreckage and officers arrived on the scene about 5pm, confirming all three on board had died, police said.

The plane was operated by Victorian-based AGAIR, which has a fleet of fire bombers.

The company’s chief executive, Rob Boschen, confirmed the Turbo Commander Aircraft crashed “while engaged in fire surveillance operations, south of Cloncurry”.

Our hearts are heavy following the fatal plane crash this afternoon in north west Queensland and the tragic loss of three people supporting our bushfire response. During natural disasters in Queensland, we respond as a family. That family includes those contracted to support our…

— Qld Fire & Emergency (@QldFES) November 4, 2023

“Authorities have confirmed three of our valued, and dearly loved staff were the only occupants of the aircraft, and there were no survivors,” he said in a statement released to the Today Show.

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) was providing “ongoing assistance”.

QFES said the aircraft had been engaged to conduct line scans and was travelling from Toowoomba to Mount Isa when it crashed.

The aircraft 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.”

It is unclear if those in the crash were part of a contingent of 211 Victorian emergency management personnel deployed to Queensland on Wednesday.

Teams consisting of public information, planning, intelligence and logistics officers were expected to work closely with local crews in Toowoomba and Rockhampton.

Aircraft assistance and strike force units with volunteer firefighters are also being provided.

Prime minister Anthony Albanese praised the firefighters’ bravery.

“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,” he said on Saturday evening while on a visit to China.

The Australian Transport and Safety Bureau (ATSB) said a team of investigators from Brisbane were preparing to travel to the crash 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.

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