Pilot dies in Christmas party crash in front of kids
CHILDREN as young as two watched in horror as a light plane clipped powerlines above their heads moments before it crashed, killing the pilot, during a Christmas party near Burrum Heads on Monday.
Gympie pilot Mike Oulton, 59, died trying to land his Cessna 182 on an airstrip adjoining the Flame Lily Adventures tourist park on Burrum Heads Rd.
Flame Lily owner Jimmy Swan said a group of seven children, aged between two and five, were standing underneath the powerlines when the single-engine Cessna came in to land at 10.06am.
"We got them down to the ground when the wires were flying around," Mr Swan said.
"He (Mr Oulton) was coming over the top of the property to give us a wave.
"He caught the top of the powerlines with his wheel."
Mr Swan said fuel began leaking from the plane, which avoided crashing onto Burrum Heads Rd, and then two explosions rang out.
When he reached the wreckage, in a nearby paddock, it was an inferno.
"It was just one big fire," he said.
"The metal was already twisted. There was just nothing left."
The plane lost a wing, which came to rest about 50m from the wreckage.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau will spend the next three days investigating the crash site and interviewing witnesses.
Flame Lily was hosting a Christmas party for Skydive Hervey Bay, which had been scheduled to do some skydiving in front of the children.
A second light plane had taken off with Santa onboard, and he was going to parachute down to the party to deliver presents.
The wrecked plane is believed to have belonged to Mr Oulton, who was attending the party after departing his private airstrip at Gympie earlier that day.
Mr Swan said he met Mr Oulton, an experienced pilot and skydiver, through Skydive Hervey Bay.
"I hope that he didn't suffer," he said.
The scale of destruction made it hard for investigating police, who had some difficulty in determining whether Mr Oulton was the only occupant.
"This at any time of the year is terrible, let alone a week before Christmas," said Maryborough District acting Inspector Troy Pukallus.
About 1600 homes and businesses in Burrum Heads, Howard and Pacific Haven were without power for two hours after the crash.