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A grandfather and his three grandchildren on board a light plane that plummeted to the ground and exploded at Lake George near Canberra have been identified.

Peter Nally, the 65-year-old pilot, his 11-year-old grandson Raphael and two granddaughters, nine-year-old Evita and six-year-old Philomena, were killed when the five-seater Cirrus SR22 registration VH-MSF went down on Friday.

Mr Nally was a highly experienced pilot and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) said on Saturday that teams were already examining the crash site in a paddock at Gundaroo, north of Queanbeyan, to determine what had happened.

‘This will be a difficult undertaking given how burnt the wreckage is,’ the ATSB’s Colin McNamara said.  

‘But over the coming days, I am fully confident that the investigators will gather as much information and evidence as they can from the accident site.’

Mr McNamara said ATSB crews will monitor for spilled chemicals, burnt carbon fibre and possible explosive materials.

Investigators are reportedly focusing on why a special parachute, that is a standard safety feature on the aircraft, did not appear to deploy. 

Raphael, 11, Evita, 9, and Philomena, 6, were tragically killed when the light plane went down just minutes after taking off from Canberra Airport (pictured with their siblings and parents Elyse and Dave Smith)

The five-seater single-engine Cirrus SR22 VH-MSF crashed and caught alight near Lake George in the NSW Tablelands around 2.52pm on Friday

Investigators said working out was caused the crash would be difficult because of the level of destruction

The plane had taken off from Canberra on a 750km trip to Armidale in northern NSW but didn’t make it 20 minutes into the flight.

Mr Nally, who has hundreds of hours of flying experience, is from Bunya in Brisbane and had flown from Redcliffe Aero Club to Armidale to visit his daughter Elyse.

He then took his three older grandchildren on a flight to Canberra where they visited extended family for a two days before attempting to fly back.

The plane crashed minutes after takeoff, first climbing to 9,000ft before it quickly lost altitude and smashed into the ground where it burst into flames.

The single-engine aircraft exploded on impact at around 2.50pm.

The Redcliffe Aero Club released a statement on Saturday following the crash.

‘The Redcliffe Aero Club expresses its deepest condolences to the family of the pilot and passengers who were tragically killed on Friday the 6th October 2023,’ the organisation said.

‘The pilot was active in the social side of the Club with many hours of flying experience.’

Redcliffe Aero Club in Queensland issued a statement on Saturday saying the pilot was active in their club

The light plane crashed (pictured) in Canberra’s north-east on Friday afternoon before the aircraft burst into flames

Emergency crews (pictured) arrived at the scene following the crash as firefighters from the Rural Fire Service quickly worked to douse the flames

Flight information shows the single-engine aircraft arrived in Canberra on Wednesday after travelling via Armidale from Redcliffe, north of Brisbane.

It’s understood the plane vanished from radar screens 16 minutes after taking off on Friday.

Mr McNamara praised the first responders to the scene.

‘These are indeed tragic circumstances exacerbated by the news that children have been involved,’ he said.

He also asked for any other witnesses to the crash to contact the ATSB.

‘Yesterday we were contacted by a number of witnesses which we’re very appreciative about. It does prompt me to say, if anyone has relevant information pertaining to this accident, please go to our website.’

The Cirrus SR-22 is a single-engine aircraft and is one of the most popular General Aviation aircraft in the world, regularly topping global best-seller lists

Six minutes after take-off, the plane made a sharp plunge near Lake George with air traffic control unable to establish communications with the pilot

The area was still alight when emergency crews arrived and firefighters worked quickly to extinguish the blaze.

‘When police arrived with RFS services there was a small grass fire and obviously a catastrophic crash of a small light aircraft,’ Police Superintendent Cath Bradbury said.

‘The RFS extinguished the plane – unfortunately there are no survivors. They are yet to be formally identified. A report will be prepared for the coroner.’

The US-made Cirrus SR-22 is a single-engine aircraft and one of the most popular General Aviation aircraft in the world, regularly topping global best-seller lists.

Mr McNamara said engineers will study the plane’s maintenance log as well as the flight history of the pilot.

The ATSB’s preliminary report is expected to be released within two months. 

Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk

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