Batemans Bay light-plane crash: one dead, one missing as search continues

The flying instructor killed in a light-plane crash in Batemans Bay, Graham White, has been remembered as a popular "gentleman" and dedicated pilot who devoted his life to flying on online tribute pages set up in his honour.

The close-knit community of Moruya is in mourning as the search continues for another man missing at sea after Sunday's crash.

"Graham's loss will be felt for years to come, there are very few of his kind left," one person posted on a tribute page.

"A humble, quietly spoken, gentleman Instructor."

Another said: "I feel so lucky to have been trained by him and he will be missed by so many."

Friend Mark Boller said Mr White was a "good generous bloke willing to give his time for anybody that was interested and willing to work".

"He was a dedicated pilot who devoted his whole life to flying," Mr Boller said.

"He's generous, very knowledgable, very dedicated and a general good knock around bloke to know."

Mr Boller said he had done a lot of training and air shows with Mr White and his death was a devastating loss for the community.

"It's a great loss, especially with pilots because they always realise the risk's there, but it's not until you lose a friend and a good bloke that you realise it's real," he said.

Several people gathered at a lookout point on Sunpatch Parade in Tomakin on Monday, where they watched the search effort.

Two boats could be spotted in the water from the shore.

The light plane crashed into the ocean off Barlings Beach south of Batemans Bay about 12.30pm, and a sea and air search began shortly after.

Mr White, believed to be in his 60s, was found floating in the water later that day. He could not be revived.

A second man remains missing. Both have been described as popular within the local community.

Detective Inspector Kevin McNeil from the Far South Coast Local Area Command said search efforts for the second man were continuing although weather conditions were not favourable. 

He said police and searchers had recovered a small amount of debris from the crash. 

Inspector McNeil said police were continuing their investigation with Recreational Aviation Australia. 

A Moruya Aero Club spokesman said Mr White, retrieved by the Westpac Lifesaver Helicopter, was a flying instructor at the club with close to 20,000 hours of flying experience. 

He said Mr White had been based in the Batemans Bay area for many years and was well known in the community and close with all at the Moruya Aero Club. His family had been informed by the police, the spokesman said.

Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopters chief executive Stephen Leahy said police divers and detectives were assisting with the search.

"We've provided police with a GPS location of where we found the wreckage on Sunday," he said.

Mr Leahy said the rescue staff knew both the men.

"Once we found the body of [Graham White] on Sunday, we became a part of the crime scene," he said. 

Detective Inspector McNeil said police held "grave fears" for the second man believed to be travelling in the plane.

He said divers began searching the crash area to depths of 20 metres on Monday.

"It's a tight-knit community and a local community and they are devastated by this," he said.

"We're not sure yet, but it looks like something might have come loose off the plane and they lost control and went into the water," Moruya Aero Club chief pilot Sheldon Jones said.

 

-with the Bay Post

The story Batemans Bay light-plane crash: one dead, one missing as search continues first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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