Queensland Police have confirmed that all five occupants of a small passenger plane reported missing in far north Queensland have died in a crash.
Emergency services found the wreckage of the Cessna 404 twin-engine piston on a beach near Lockhart River, about 800 kilometres north of Cairns about 1.20pm on Wednesday after a search.
Acting Chief Superintendent Chris Hodgman told a media conference on Wednesday afternoon that the four government workers and the pilot were killed when the plane crashed into sand dunes about five kilometres south of the Lockhart River township.
During a search of the wreckage, the bodies of the 39-year-old pilot and four male passengers aged between 49 and 63 were located.
All five men were from the Cairns area.
The accident is being investigated by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau.
A preliminary report is expected to be released in about a month.
“ATSB transport safety investigators with experience in aircraft operations, aircraft maintenance and aeronautical engineering are preparing to deploy to the accident site,” a statement said.
“The investigation’s final report can be expected to be released in about 18 months.”
Perth-based charter company Aerohire has confirmed it was their aircraft.
Superintendent Hodgman said it is understood the plane attempted to land twice in the “rough” conditions but crashed on a third attempt.
The aircraft was reported overdue at Lockhart River at 11am on Wednesday.
Emergency services were called to the region, in Cape York, after reports the plane was missing near Lockhart River.
Queensland Police and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority started a co-ordinated joint search about 11.30am (local time).
The Bureau of Meteorology had earlier warned of high winds and flooding rain in the area.
The rough weather is the result of a tropical low that is expected to develop into a cyclone over the Coral Sea at the weekend.
AMSA sent two rescue helicopters from Cairns and Horn Island and its Challenger Search and Rescue jet from Cairns to the area.
Lockhart River is also the scene of one of Australia’s worst civil aviation disasters in May 2005.
Pilot error and company safety issues were eventually found to be partly to blame when a Metroliner 23 plane crashed on approach to the local airport, killing two pilots and 13 passengers on board.