Few clues to cause of fatal crash


THE pilot of a Piper Comanche aircraft which crashed at Casuarina in February had experienced engine trouble on a flight just days before he died, an interim report has found.

The report, released yesterday by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, makes no findings however about what actually happened when he crashed into the ocean just 13 minutes after taking off from Gold Coast airport.

It suggests however that Mr Storhaug may have experienced problems with his plane's right engine just five days prior during a return trip from Bundaberg, only five flying hours after its annual inspection.

"The pilot reported to maintenance personnel, after returning to the Gold Coast Airport, that the right propeller feathered when the aircraft was entering the circuit in preparation for landing," the report said.

"The investigation has not yet established what subsequent action was taken to unfeather the propeller, or whether the engine/propeller were examined by a maintenance engineer during the period between when the aircraft arrived from Bundaberg and the accident flight."

The report found that Mr Storhaug took off from the Gold Coast at 4.22pm on February 4, and 11 minutes later notified traffic controllers that his right engine had failed. Fifteen seconds later he reported that his left engine was also playing up, and that he would attempt to land on the beach at Casuarina.

He crashed into the ocean shortly after just 100 metres from Casuarina Beach.

Witnesses described a variety of sounds, including an increase in engine noise and a loud bang before they saw the aircraft "pitch up and bank sharply to the right".

"It remained banked to the right and descended steeply into the water, just beyond the wave zone/shore break," the report said.

The report said Mr Storhaug had recently undergone a medical examination, which he passed, and that he had travelled to Bundaberg five days prior to the fatal accident.

The investigation is continuing, the report said, into factors such as the aircraft's operational and maintenance history; discussions with witnesses; a review of medical, post-mortem and toxicology results; and further examinations of the aircraft remains.

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