Two pilots are lucky to be alive after a water bomber plane crashed while battling two out-of-control bushfires in the Fitzgerald River National Park on Monday.
The Boeing 737-137 was carrying the pilots on board when it crashed in the forest between Ravensthorpe and Hopetoun, in the State’s south about 4.40pm.
The pilots managed to get themselves out of the wreckage and were taken from the crash site by helicopter to Ravensthorpe Airport, where they were then transferred to a local medical facility, a Department of Fire and Emergency Services spokesman said.
St John WA said it was believed the pilots, one a man, were not seriously injured but would be assessed to see if they need to be flown to Perth for medical treatment.
DFES said the large air tanker, currently based in WA, departed Busselton-Margaret River Airport, to help battle the blaze at about 3.30pm.
“The Department of Fire and Emergency Services will assist the relevant authorities as they conduct their inquiries,” a spokesman said.
“DFES is not in a position to make further comment at this time.”
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau is assembling a team of transport safety investigators from its Perth and Canberra offices to investigate the plane crash.
A spokesperson said they will conduct the evidence collection phase of the investigation.
“Initially, investigators will seek to interview the pilots and witnesses to understand the circumstances of the accident, and determine the accessibility of the accident site with the aim of conducting an on-site examination of the aircraft wreckage,” they said.
“The scope of the investigation and its timeframe will be determined as the ATSB builds its understanding of the nature of the accident.”
It’s understood there were other smaller firefighting aircraft operating over the fire and after the crash kept dumping water and retardant to control flames while the people were recovered.
Throughout Monday afternoon, 45 Parks and Wildlife Service firefighters were on the scene at the national park attempting to extinguish two fires.
A fire — caused by lightning — ignited about 10am near Hopetoun and on Monday night was moving fast in a north-easterly direction with 900 hectares of forest already burnt.
A bushfire watch and act alert was issued for people within the vicinity of the eastern side of the national park near Hopetoun.
A second fire broke out four hours later prompting DFES to warn people in the area about a possible threat to lives and homes.
Campers within the Hamersley Campground were asked to leave along Hamersley Inlet Drive towards Hopetoun.
A bushfire advice alert was also issued for people travelling along the South Coast Highway north of the park and to the east of Hopetoun-Ravensthorpe Road.
The park has since been closed.
ATSB officers will attend the crash site when possible to conduct an investigation.
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