Remote workers could have experienced breathing difficulties when fatally crashing in Queensland’s McKinlay Shire.
Authorities suspect a lack of oxygen could have caused a fly-in fly-out plane accident near AIC Mines’ Eloise operation in McKinlay, 757km west of Townsville.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) will examine recorded speech to determine whether a pilot and two camera operators experienced sleepiness, drowsiness, confusion, slurred speech, and impaired cognition and decision making during fire mapping surveillance for Queensland Fire and Emergency Services.
“Radio recordings during this period indicate that the pilot’s rate and volume of speech had been substantially lowered from earlier communications and was worsening,” chief commissioner Angus Mitchell said according to the Australian Associated Press.
“It was not possible to determine the operability of the aircraft’s pressurisation and oxygen systems,” the latest ATSB preliminary report added.
The twin-engine charter plane experienced radio communications issues before it made an unexpected descent at about 2:30pm on 4 November 2023. Mine employees responded to the incident and contacted authorities. All three aboard died.
One victim was identified as William Joseph Jennings, a 22-year-old US citizen who worked for AGAIR Aerial Firefighting.
“During their on-site examinations investigators were able to account for all major aircraft components and determined that both engines and propellers had indications that the engines were running at impact,” Mitchell said according to the newswire agency.
A final report will be released after investigations have ended.
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