A 24 year-old Victorian pilot miraculously escaped serious injury when the plane he was navigating solo crashed in a paddock near Deniliquin on Wednesday afternoon.
He was able to remove himself from the Cessna 172 aircraft without assistance, and Deniliquin Police reported he only sustained a cut to one arm.
The plane belongs to ST Aerospace Academy which operates a training school from Deniliquin Airport at various times throughout the year.
A spokesperson from the company yesterday said the student pilot was immediately admitted to hospital for a check-up and has since been discharged with no serious injuries.
‘‘Until we complete our investigation, we are unable to comment on the cause of the incident. While investigations are ongoing, we have stopped all flying operations at our academy,’’ the spokesperson said.
‘‘We wish to thank the emergency rescue services for their prompt assistance and the Deniliquin community for their ongoing support.’’
Police said the plane crash-landed in a paddock next to the Cobb Highway south of Deniliquin, opposite the Deniliquin Airport, about 3.40pm.
It was about the same time a heavy burst of rain hit Deniliquin and district.
They said the pilot walked to the highway where he sought assistance.
As well as police, Deniliquin NSW Fire & Rescue and Deniliquin’s Rural Fire Service brigade, the Deniliquin Rescue Squad and Deniliquin Ambulance NSW paramedics all responded to the incident.
The plane was facing east in the paddock, about 1km from Deniliquin, after it hit the ground. It suffered significant damage.
The propeller was pointed down into the ground, and panels from the underside of the nose were torn off.
The front windshield was smashed and a side window panel was sitting a short distance to the left of the plane.
The plane’s tail was torn away from the cockpit and was hanging away from it on an almost 90 degree angle.
The left-hand side wing was also snapped in half.
Edward River Council Mayor Norm Brennan said he believes the plane might have been attempting to land at Deniliquin Airport when it got caught in a ‘‘freak weather event’’.
‘‘The reports are that it absolutely poured down over the Deniliquin Airport, creating what we might call severe weather conditions,’’ Cr Brennan said.
‘‘The crash could have ended a hell of a lot worse than it did, and I am thankful the only real damage was to the plane.
‘‘What I know of the ST Aerospace Academy is that it has a brilliant safety record.
‘‘We (Edward River Council) welcome their use of the facility with open arms, and the boost to the economy they provide when they bring students here.
‘‘This appears to have been a freak incident, and we’re just glad everyone is safe and sound.’’
Deniliquin NSW Fire & Rescue Captain Martin Smith said assistance was requested from both fire services to address any potential fire risk or fuel spill.
Two Fire & Rescue appliances attended the scene, and one from the Deniliquin RFS.
Capt Smith said NSW Fire & Rescue Deputy Commander Inspector Scott Dodson, who was already in Deniliquin at the time of the crash, was also on scene.
‘‘We established a protection line around the plane using foam in case there was an ignition source,’’ Capt Smith said.
‘‘While that foam line was in place we disconnected the battery and ensured there was no threat of a (fuel) spill.
‘‘Once the site was deemed safe, we were able to leave (about 5pm).’’
Capt Smith said while it was not the first plane crash the local brigade had attended, he said it was the first in many years. He recalled the last plane crash NSW Fire & Rescue was called to respond to was in about 2000, on North Aratula Rd.
Deniliquin Police said Wednesday’s crash is being investigated by the Australian Safety Transport Bureau.
At the time of going to print yesterday, the ASTB was still gathering information on the crash and was unable to provide comment.