The site where the wreckage of the ultralight aircraft was found 4km east of Emerald.
The site where the wreckage of the ultralight aircraft was found 4km east of Emerald. Contributed

Cancer survivor dies in air tragedy

FRANTIC calls to the mobile phones of two men missing in an ultralight plane crash near Emerald went unanswered, as relatives and friends endured an agonising Wednesday night.

On Thursday afternoon, at 1.50pm, their worst fears were confirmed when crewmen on the RACQ CQ Rescue Service chopper found the wreckage of the two-seater white plane containing the bodies of the men in bushland on a property 4km east of Emerald.

It was only 4.8km from the airport where it had taken off at 3pm on what police described as a pre-sale familiarisation flight.

Mayor Peter Maguire yesterday paid tribute to former Central Highlands council employee Ian Baldwin, 56, who died in the crash.

“A lot of people knew Ian. He was a hard-working guy who will be sadly missed,” Cr Maguire said.

“He started his career in local government in Alpha and worked in the former Emerald and Bauhinia shires and then the Central Highlands council when the amalgamation happened.

“He is survived by his wife Michelle, his two children and

three grandchildren.

“Ian was a cancer survivor. He would have been involved in Relay for Life on the weekend.

“He fought that battle and still continued working as well, with support from his family and friends.

“This is more than the loss of a former employee for us, Ian was a work colleague and a friend to many people.”

Mr Baldwin retired from council in October, 2010, as Springsure works manager.

He had been responsible for road construction and maintenance in the southern end of the shire.

The identity of the other man, aged 60, had not been released when Central Queensland News went to print yesterday.

Rockhampton district duty officer Senior Sergeant Marcus Cryer said the homemade ultralight was reported overdue at 6pm on Wednesday.

An EPIRB signal was not detected.

“It was going for only a short flight,” Snr Sgt Cryer said.

“Information was received on Thursday morning from Emerald rural residents that on Wednesday afternoon they had heard and observed a light aircraft in trouble.

“That information was received around 8am from residents east of Emerald.

“The accident has occurred shortly after take-off.

“When the Mackay rescue chopper located the accident site, there were two deceased males at the location.”

Snr Sgt Cryer said police spent yesterday morning conducting inquiries with property owners in an attempt to establish the line of travel for the aircraft after narrowing their search parameters.

It was the men’s mobile phones that aided searchers when Telstra was asked to check if their signals were being picked up by nearby communication towers.

The search involved Emerald helicopter pilots, the Mackay and Rockhampton RACQ chopper services and a fixed wing Dornia from Cairns.

“The search area was designated as a result of the triangulation of signals of the mobile phones in the possession of the men,” Snr Sgt Cryer said.

The forensic crash unit and Emerald CIB officers remained at the site yesterday.

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