Kurt Bayer

Kurt Bayer is an APNZ reporter based in Christchurch.

Kiwi killed in gyrocopter crash

File photo / Thinkstock
File photo / Thinkstock

A 67-year-old New Zealander has been killed during a gyroplane training crash in Australia.

Robert William Brockbank and his instructor Sam La Bruna were found dead at the scene when their light aircraft crashed in a paddock after taking off from Mangalore Airport, 120km north of Melbourne on Saturday afternoon.

There were no witnesses to the crash but a motorist came across the crash site about 12.30pm.

Ambulance Victoria confirmed the two men were found dead at the scene.

Police treated the crash site as a crime scene until air crash safety investigators took over on Sunday.

Hunter Jones, secretary of the Australian Sports Rotorcraft Association (ASRA), confirmed a crash investigation had begun and a report would be done for a coronial inquest.

He said: "No details will be released until that report is formalised.

"Our condolences go to the families of everyone concerned."

Mr Jones told APNZ that the pilot, Mr La Bruna, was "an industry colleague" who was "meticulous in everything he did, including his approach to flying and instructing.

He said: "Sam was very experienced and so it came as a huge shock to the Australian gyro industry."

Mr Jones also revealed that Mr Brockbank had come to his attention earlier this month.

"It is rather ironic that Robert actually purchased a publication from us a couple of weeks ago: a book on gyro flying. It was a transaction that went through our online shop. It's very sad."

In a death notice in The New Zealand Herald today, Mr Brockbank's family mourned his passing.

The notice says: "He lived a full and adventurous life and died while embarking enthusiastically on a new found passion. Sadly missed. RIP."

Stanley Yeong, who was waiting to take the next lesson, told The Sunday Age newspaper that he became worried when the gyroplane failed to return to the "very windy" airfield after two hours.

"They were only supposed to be gone for one hour. I started trying to call them but I couldn't get through. I'm shocked. [The pilot] was very experienced - he loved to fly," he said.

Local police Sergeant Rocky Fazzolari was reported in The Sunday Age as saying: "It's been very windy and gusty - it may have contributed, who knows."

But Mr Jones, a gyroplane expert, doubted whether high winds played a part in the crash.

He said: "I wasn't there, so I wasn't aware of the conditions or the circumstances, but by the nature of its design and mode of flight, gyro is considerably more stable in wind than fixed-wing aircraft. It is able to withstand fairly high winds, of 20-plus knots."

- APNZ

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