Massive fireball: Light plane crashes into Australian shopping mall

Carla Harmon
February 23, 2017

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau had called the near-miss a "serious incident" in a summary. On board were an Australian, named as "seasoned pilot" Max Quartermain, and four U.S. tourists on their way to play golf at King Island, who have not been formally identified. He co-founded the law firm Munsch Hardt and had recently retired after a almost 40-year career. "Our deepest sympathies and thoughts are with his family during this hard time".

Four Americans were on board the twin-engine Beechcraft Super King Air plane, the U.S. State Department said in a statement. Greg Reynolds De Haven and Russell Munsch, both from Texas, have been identified by their families on social media as two of the victims, according to the Associated Press.

Although the cause of the crash has not been determined yet, Victoria police superintendent Mick Frewen said investigations centred on a "catastrophic engine failure".

On July 10, 1978 a light plane crashed into houses near Essendon Airport, while one person died in a mid-air collision at Moorabbin Airport in 2002.

Witnesses said the plane appeared to be coming in low and fast before they saw an explosion at the mall, which the plane hit the back of, sending parts of the plane landed as far as the Tullamarine Freeway, on the opposite side of the shopping center. "She said he was on a "'once in a lifetime' trip to Australia" and was on "on a charter flight with 2 of his friends to play golf".

Garland, the former chief executive officer of the energy consulting company CLEAResult, was overseas on a golfing tour.

Mr Quartermain owned the Essendon-based Corporate and Leisure Aviation company and had been a pilot for 38 years.

Police Assistant Commissioner Stephen Leane also declined to say whether the four passengers were Americans.

Tuesday's doomed flight left the runway just before 9am.

An investigation summary into the incident reported that low clouds had made conditions hard and were responsible for the plane having "tracking difficulties" on its approach to Mount Hotham. Witnesses say they say a fireball rise into the sky.

All five people onboard died in the crash, described as "the worst civil aviation accident that our state has seen for 30 years" by Victoria Prime Minister Daniel Andrews.

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