Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Cessna 172S, VH-PFT: Fatal accident occurred December 29, 2014 near Port Arthur, southern Tasmania, Australia

The family of a pilot killed in a Tasmanian light plane crash have paid tribute to their relative as police confirm his body and that of a second man have been removed from the wreckage.

Sam Langford, 29, and passenger Tim Jones, 61, died on December 29 when the single-engine Cessna slammed nose-first into waters in the state's southeast near the Tasman Peninsula.

Recovery crews on Tuesday winched the damaged aircraft from the 90-metre seabed and brought it to Hobart by barge, with the men still in the cockpit.

In a brief statement on Wednesday, police said they had since been removed.

"Members of Tasmania Police forensics services processed the aircraft and recovered the bodies of the two men," the statement said.

On the same day, family and friends published notices in the Mercury newspaper.

"Forever in our hearts and thoughts, your drive and ambition will keep us going and looking skywards," Mr Langford's family wrote. "We will never forget your cheeky smile. Sam, we miss you."

The notices also sent "thoughts and sympathies" to Mr Jones's family.

He was taking photos of boats competing in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race when the crash happened.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has assessed the wreckage and police are preparing a report for the coroner

Officers on board PV Van Diemen work to recover the wreck of a light plane which crashed during the Sydney to Hobart race.

Efforts to retrieve a plane that crashed into the sea off Tasmania's south-east, killing both people on board, have been suspended due to problems with recovery equipment.

Attempts to winch the plane the 90 metres to the surface began last night but were suspended early this morning.

It is understood police had the wreckage of the plane almost to the surface when a rope holding it broke.

The plane plunged back into the ocean floor. Further sonar work will be needed to relocate its exact position and start the retrieval process again.

Sonar images have confirmed the bodies of the pilot Sam Langford, 29, and 61-year-old photographer Tim Jones are still inside the cockpit of the Cessna 172 which crashed off Cape Raoul on Monday evening.

The pair were covering the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race when the accident happened.

On Wednesday the plane was discovered in about 90 metres of water off the Tasman Peninsular, south of Port Arthur.

But Acting Assistant Commissioner for Tasmania Police, Tony Cerritelli, said there had been technical difficulties with the equipment needed to reach the wreckage.

"The plane was located on a sandy bottom in that area [off the Tasman Peninsula] and two deceased people were unfortunately located in the cockpit," Mr Cerritelli said.

"We believe that those two people are the two missing people who went down with the Cessna earlier this week."

Once the wreckage has been brought to the surface it will be examined by experts to help determine the cause of the crash.

The crash investigation is being handled by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB).

ATSB spokesman Joe Hattley said the bureau wanted to speak to anyone with any information about the crash.

"The ATSB would be interested in any information that anyone has in relation to the aircraft accident and we'd like anyone with information or photos or anything at all to contact the ATSB on 1800 020 616," he said.

A number of yachts diverted from the race to offer assistance after hearing a may day call that a plane had crashed.

Helsal III skipper John Davis said when crew members raised the alarm they immediately suspended racing and went into search-and-rescue mode.

Two tourists, who were watching the yacht race from nearby cliffs, reported seeing a plane flying "really low" in the area where the crash happened.

Airlines of Tasmania said it was devastated to receive the news of the death of its pilot Mr Langford and his passenger.

Managing director Shannon Wells said the airline staff were receiving all support possible as they came to grips with the loss of their colleague.

"Our thoughts and condolences extend to family and friends of Sam and Tim," Mr Wells said.

"Both men were highly regarded within their industries. We'll all be worse off without their presence.

"Tasmania Police, the Search and Rescue volunteers and competitors in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race, who did as much as they could to assist, have all done a tremendous job in very difficult and tragic circumstances."

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