Seaplane tragedy: ATSB launches probe, pilot remembered as loved member of aviation community

The wreckage of the Grumman G-73
A police boat patrols the debris of a plane that crashed into the Swan River whilst displaying during an Australia Day Skyworks event in Perth on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017. (AAP Image/Richard Wainwright)
A Facebook image obtained Friday, Jan. 27, 2017 of Peter Lynch. Mr Lynch was one of two people who died after a plane crashed into the Swan River in front of horrified onlookers during Australia Day celebrations in Perth yesterday. (AAP Image/Facebook)
The wreckage of the Grumman G-73 "Mallard" on Friday morning. Photo: Andrew Ritchie. A police boat patrols the debris of a plane that crashed into the Swan River whilst displaying during an Australia Day Skyworks event in Perth on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017. (AAP Image/Richard Wainwright) A Facebook image obtained Friday, Jan. 27, 2017 of Peter Lynch. Mr Lynch was one of two people who died after a plane crashed into the Swan River in front of horrified onlookers during Australia Day celebrations in Perth yesterday. (AAP Image/Facebook)

A father-of-three killed when his sea plane crashed into Perth’s Swan River during Australia Day festivities has been remembered as a loved and respected member of the aviation community.

Peter Lynch, 52, and female passenger Endah Cakrawati, 30, died when the Grumman G-73 “Mallard” flying boat broke up on impact just after 5pm on Thursday in front of horrified onlookers.

Laura Lynch posted a tribute on Facebook confirming the death of the businessman, who’s believed to have been working with iron ore miner Fortescue Metals in Perth.

“With great difficulty, I am unbearably saddened to confirm that my great friend and the father of my children passed after a tragic accident on the Swan River in Perth yesterday,” the Brisbane- based mother wrote.

Friend Tom Usher wrote: “Deeply shocked and saddened. Peter was a good neighbour, a good mate, and a good man. My deepest sympathies to you and the boys and especially to your daughter.”

Mr Lynch was a member of Queensland-based aeronautic club The Great Eastern Fly-In, and reportedly only moved to Perth six months ago.

MORE: Man refuses to leave burning house because of Hilux in garage

MORE: Police release CCTV footage of credit card fraud suspect

MORE: Mum’s sickness inspires daughter’s fundraising fight against MS

In a statement, the Great Eastern Fly In committee described Mr Lynch’s death as a tragic accident.

“Peter was a man of vision and one with a passion for aviation and was well loved and respected in our close knit flying community,” they said.

“Peter for many years attended the Evans Head Great Eastern Fly In, was the man with a vision for an Air Park at Evans Head, and was instrumental in the establishment of the Evans Head Aviation Museum.

“Our deepest and sincere condolences are expressed to Peter’s family and many friends who are grieving with his sad passing.

“Clear skies Peter, and may you rest in peace our dear friend and colleague.”

Police, meanwhile, say an investigation into the crash could take months to complete.

“It may just be a tragic accident,” acting Police Commissioner Stephen Brown said on Friday morning.

“It will take some time to determine.”

ATSB aviation investigations manager Greg Madden said on Friday morning that the plane, which is under guard by a police vessel, is expected to be removed within the next day or so.

Mr Madden said that type of aircraft didn’t appear to have a history of faults.

“We’ll be certainly looking closely at the aircraft history but at this stage, there’s nothing to indicate that there’s a problem with the aircraft,” Mr Madden told ABC radio.

Many horrified witnesses filmed the crash on their phones and immediately posted the vision on social media, showing a huge plume of water as the plane hit the surface nose first.

“The plane seemed to be banking and then it looked like it was turning too sharply and just seemed to fall into the water,” witness Mark Annette-Stuart told AAP.

Up to 10 pleasure craft on the river sped to the scene near Heirisson Island and tried in vain to rescue the occupants.

“His wings were pointing to the sky and to the water and we thought ‘this is not good’ then we saw it break into two pieces,” witness Craig Newill told The West Australian.

Other witness reported a loud bang as the plane entered the water.

The plane was part of an airshow over the river ahead of Perth’s annual Skyworks fireworks display, which was cancelled out of respect to the victims and to conserve the integrity of the site.

Premier Colin Barnett paid tribute to the dead couple, and said the decision to cancel the Skyworks was the right thing to do.

“On behalf of West Australians, my heartfelt sympathies and thoughts go to the family and loved ones of Peter Lynch and Endah Cakrawati,” Mr Barnett said.

“I spoke with Perth Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi and Deputy Premier Liza Harvey last night, and the decision to cancel the Australia Day fireworks following this tragedy was the right thing to do.

“I would like to thank all West Australians for their understanding of that decision to cancel the Skyworks event.”

Opposition leader Mark McGowan said in a statement on Friday that the tragedy had shaken the WA community.

“My heart goes out to the families and friends of the two people involved. They’re in all our thoughts and prayers today,” he said.

“The decision to cancel the Skyworks yesterday was the right call given the tragic circumstances.”

The plane remained in situ overnight guarded by water police but could be removed on Friday pending a decision by the WA Department of Transport and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau.

WA Police acting commissioner Stephen Brown says the cause of the crash is “unknown”.

“For reasons yet unknown, it’s entered the waterway, thankfully without injuring anyone else on the ground or any other people who are here at the event,” he told reporters.

More than 300,000 people had been expected to attend the Skyworks show around the river.

WA Police will provide a further update on the crash later on Friday.