It was meant to be a few happy days away with their grandfather — but a short homeward journey after a visit with extended family in Canberra tragically cost three Armidale children their lives.
Investigators now believe a special parachute failed to open above a small plane as it spiralled rapidly toward the ground, killing the experienced pilot Peter Nally and his three grandchildren.
The built-in parachute system, part of the standard safety equipment on the Cirrus SR22 being flown by Mr Nally, failed to deploy as the plane plummeted 9000 feet in a matter of seconds.
A massive explosion followed, killing Mr Nally and his three grandchildren — 11-year-old Raphael, nine-year-old Evita and six-year-old Philomena — less than 20 minutes into their voyage to Armidale from Canberra on Friday afternoon.
The children and their grandfather had spent the two previous days together visiting family in the ACT.
Mr Nally, who lives in the Queensland suburb of Bunya, left the Redcliffe Aero Club on Tuesday and spent the evening at his daughter Elyse Smith’s home in Armidale.
The following day, Mr Nally took his daughter’s three children, Raphael, Evita and Philomena on a two-hour leisure flight to the ACT, where they spent the next two days with extended family in the suburb of Ainsley.
Mr Nally and the children boarded the light plane at Canberra airport about 2pm on Friday, with the flight back to Armidale scheduled for 2.30pm.
However, they never made it home, with Mrs Smith and her husband David tragically losing three of their five children.
Police sources said only one witness had been identified, who reported seeing the aircraft travelling “just above the tree line prior to spiralling and impacting heavily with the ground”.
At 2.36pm, air traffic controllers at Canberra airport lost communication with Mr Nally, as the plane fell from the sky.
Audio transmissions revealed controllers attempted to reach the 65-year-old 10 times after he disappeared from their navigation systems.
Minutes later, reports of a massive explosion at a rural property near Lake George were received by police.
Local weather conditions were very favourable for flight.
Data indicates Mr Nally departed Canberra at about 2.36pm and crashed at 2.52pm.
Emergency services arrived on scene at 3.13pm to find the aircraft completely destroyed and well alight.
After spending the night at the scene, police on Saturday handed control of the investigation over to air safety investigators who will probe the circumstances surrounding the crash, including the suggestion the parachute appears not to have discharged.
Mr Nally was a long time member of the Redcliffe Aero Club, which offered its condolences to his family following the tragedy.
“The Redcliffe Aero Club expresses its deepest condolences to the family of the pilot and passengers who were tragically killed on Friday,” Redcliffe Aero Club vice president Sam Keenan said.
“The pilot was active in the social side of the club with many hours of flying experience. The aircraft was privately owned and not operated by the club.”
Registration information stated the plane Mr Nally was flying was owned by an aero company called Up n Up Aviation.
The aircraft was constructed in 2002 and imported into Australia in 2017.
It was reportedly in excellent airworthy condition.
https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/parachute-failed-in-plane-crash-that-killed-man-and-three-grandkids/news-story/982b6ef8e458bf931d5426678f6233d1 No parachute in Canberra plane crash that killed grandfather, three grandchildren