Many Gloucester residents will never forget the very foggy morning of November 11, 1982.
Around 8:40am a plane fell from the sky and landed near the riverbank in Billabong Park not far from the Grahame’s Garage (vacant Turner Holden building).
All four people on board were killed; among them was Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s father, Bruce Turnbull.
Bob Clarke from Killawarra was working in the Gloucester district for Telstra at the time. On that morning, he was driving out of the depot when he noticed someone looking up to the sky. So he got out of the car.
“I heard a loud roar of an engine and saw a plane spiraling down from the sky,” Bob recalls.
He raced down to the crash site were he saw the plane on the ground.
“It was on its side with one wing upright pointing toward the sky.”
The first person he saw was Norm Beaton, who had come across the creek from the garage where he was working.
“We stood in shock for a minute, then decided there was not a lot we could do for the occupants,” Bob remembers.
John (Tad) Parish was at Gloucester Machinery that morning when he hear a loud bang. He said he was sure the sound was from two planes colliding. As he made his way over to the crash site, he could see debris falling from the sky. Then he saw the plane.
When he reached the park, Norm came up to him before he got to the plane and told him there was nothing he could do to help the occupants.
According to the Aviation Safety Investigation Report, Desmond Curran and Dennis Parkinson were travelling from Cessnock to Scone for business. They stopped in Scone, where Bruce Turnbull joined them in the Piper PA28-161 Warrior VH-UDX, flown by pilot William Ford, onto Casino.
In the report it says the plane flew into cloud enroute to Taree which the pilot described as “a bit of murk”. Due to the bad visual condition, the pilot reported he would return to Scone.
The report indicates the pilot continued to fly in adverse weather conditions in a plane without radio navigation aids. Last communication with the plane was at 8:38am.
It is believed the pilot loss control of the aircraft after becoming disorientated in the cloud. After a steep decent, it’s believed the pilot attempted to correct the flight path to avoid crashing by raising the nose of the plan.
The report states the design strength limit was exceeded causing the left wing and part of tail to break off. The detached wing landed in Tad’s neighbours’ backyard several hundred metres away.