News State Victoria News Essendon Airport crash: Five dead as plane crashes into DFO centre
Updated:

Essendon Airport crash: Five dead as plane crashes into DFO centre

The charter plane crashed into a Melbourne shopping complex.
Share
Twitter Facebook Reddit Pinterest Email

A charter plane crashed into a Melbourne shopping complex Tuesday morning killing all five people on board and sparking a massive fireball.

Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Stephen Leane confirmed no one on board the plane survived the tragedy, but declined to give details of the victims.

The tragedy is believed to have claimed the life of Max Quartermain, the co-owner of Corporate and Leisure Aviation, according to the ABC, with four American tourists also reported to have perished.

Assistant Commissioner Leane said it is believed there were no fatalities apart from those in the plane.

In what is the worst air disaster in Victoria for 30 years, the Beechcraft King Air, five-person charter flight to King Island crashed soon after take off from Essendon Airport in the city’s north at 9:00am.

Read new updates and insights on the tragic crash and its victims in The New Daily‘s 5pm PM Update, delivered to your inbox

Max Quartermain, the co-owner of Corporate and Leisure Aviation, is believed to have died.
Max Quartermain, the co-owner of Corporate and Leisure Aviation, is believed to have died.

The Advocate newspaper in Tasmania quoted a source on King Island as saying the plane was carrying golfers.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews refused to confirm any details of the passengers’ identities.

“We are currently reaching out to their families to provide them with the support that they need to try to comfort them at what must be just such a horrible moment,” he told a media conference.

Australian Corporate Jet Centres told the ABC the plane (shown below) is now operated by boutique private charter flight operator Corporate and Leisure Aviation based at Essendon airport.

beechcraft-king-air-B22
The Beechcraft aircraft believed to have been involved in Tuesday’s crash. Photo: Jetphotos.com/George Canciani

The plane called mayday as it was taking off and Victoria Police Superintendent Mick Frewen said it appeared to be affected by a “catastrophic engine failure”.

The plane crashed into the back of two shops, Focus on Furniture and JB Hi Fi, he said.

Police are yet to release any details of possible casualties.

More than 16 fire crews fought to put out the blaze at the DFO factory outlet complex near Bulla Rd in Essendon Fields.

“It appears a light plane, which is a charter flight, has impacted the DFO [shopping centre] at Essendon Fields.

“There’s also debris that’s been left on the [Tullamarine] freeway.”

Victorian Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley told a media conference Essendon Airport would be closed until further notice while the investigation into the cause of the crash get underway.

He said in-bound lanes of the Tullamarine Freeway would remain closed for a number of hours until that can be cleared and evidence collected for the investigation.

How the crash unfolded

0221-plane-crash-dfo-2

An emergency services spokesman at the scene said motorists should avoid the area.

“Our advice to motorists is find an alternative route. We just want to make sure that’s preserved as much as possible,” he said.

“We are awaiting CASA advice and the Bureau of Air Safety.”  

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has asked witnesses to the plane crash to call 1800 020 616 to help with its investigation.

Fire Under control

A spokeswoman from the Metropolitan Fire Brigade said DFO fire was brought under control about 10.30am.

It took about 56 fire fighters 90 minutes to bring the blaze, caused by the plane crash, under control, the MFB said.

“The fire has been brought under control and the incident has been handed over to Victoria Police.”

Mr Andrews praised the work of firefighters.

“This was a very complex and unpredictable fire, but our highly skilled trained firefighter efforts have done an outstanding job in extinguishing this blaze,” he said.

The shopping centre was yet to open, but the wellbeing of all staff at the complex has not been confirmed.

A spokesperson from furniture retailer Nick Scali confirmed the store was staffed at the time, but could not confirm whether any were affected.

Retailer Spotlight, a tenant at the DFO complex issued a statement confirming the aircraft crashed into its rear warehouse and that “all staff had been accounted for”.

See  dramatic photos from the aftermath of the crash

MFB chief fire crews Essendon airport dfo crash
MFB Chief Paul Stacchino says fire crews were to remain on site for some time Source: Twitter
Five people were killed after the crash at DFO in Essendon. Photo: AAP
The Spotlight side of the DFO complex was engulfed in flame Photo: AAP
The massive smoke plume was observed from significant distance. Source: Twitter
At least 13 firetrucks were on site at DFO to bring the blaze under control. Source: Twitter
A memorial will be set up at Essendon's DFO centre. Photo: AAP
More than 60 firefighters worked to control the blaze. Source: Twitter
Police gather in the DFO car park shortly after the crash. Source: Twitter
Nearby motorists witnessed the light aircraft crash and shared images and video to social media. Source: Facebook
A Twitter user captured vision of the impact moments after the crash. Source: Twitter

A spokesperson from another tenant, Focus on Furniture, told The New Daily that no staff were at the store at the time of the crash.

JB Hi Fi and the Good Guys both confirmed all staff are accounted for.

‘It was shaking’

Nick Scali employee Grace Martin told The New Daily she was sitting outside the shopping complex when she saw the plane.

“I saw the plane flying across the top of the roof and it was shaking,” she said.

“I ran across to Dan Murphy’s. I heard the big bang and saw all the flames. This is just really sad.”

Nearby resident Max Paladino told The New Daily he ran over to the crash site with workers from a nearby construction site to see if he could help.

“It was just adrenaline,” he said. “There was no way possible we could do anything.

“You could feel the heat.

See Mr Paladino’s footage of the initial blaze

Mr Paladino said he was at the site with about 15 other people for about just five minutes before they were forced to leave.

“Eventually one of them said, ‘this could blow up.’ So we left.”

If the details of this incident have caused you concern, please seek help. Call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyondblue on 1300 224 636.