24 Aug 2015

Family 'ecstatic' at plane crash survival

9:08 pm on 24 August 2015

The couple who survived the crash of their light plane in Taranaki are doing better than expected, their son says.

Anne and Alan Warner.

Alan and Anne Warner Photo: FACEBOOK

Alan and Anne Warner left Whitianga yesterday afternoon, heading home to Stratford, but soon sent out a distress signal after experiencing bad weather conditions.

Rescue helicopters found the crashed plane at 10.30am today in rugged terrain 8 kilometres west of Whangamomona.

The couple are now in a stable condition in Taranaki Base Hospital.

In a statement, the hospital said Mr Warner had suffered moderate back injures, and Mrs Warner had moderate chest injuries.

Adam Warner at a news conference after his parents, Alan and Anne Warner, survived a light plane crash in Taranaki in August 2015.

Adam Warner Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

The couple's eldest son, Adam Warner, told a news conference at the hospital this afternoon that his 58-year-old father was a go-to person in a crisis.

"He's pretty tough, hard but fair, and I'd say he would have been pretty resourceful throughout the night, and obviously he's done a pretty good job in crash landing considering they are both still alive at the moment."

Mr Warner, who was supported by the couple's extended family during the news conference, said his father was not one to panic.

"They get taught in their training to stick with the plane. That's got the locator beacon and that's your best bet of getting out of there."

The chopper arriving at Taranaki Base Hospital.

The chopper arrives at Taranaki Base Hospital Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

He said he was in a search helicopter when news came through that they were alive.

"You see this kind of thing on the news all the time and you never expect it to happen to you and when it does it is really bizarre," he said.

"When the news came through, when we were up in the helicopter, I was just overwhelmed with emotion. We're very grateful obviously and when we found out they were alive and well, we were just ecstatic."

Mr Warner said his father had always wanted to learn to fly but only took it up about three years ago after surviving a serious illness.

He had clocked up 120 solo flying hours but got caught out by conditions, he said.

"Basically, it was the weather, bad weather, poor visability was basically the cause of it. They got caught out."

Mr Warner said, when he heard his parents' plane was missing, he feared the worst.

"I think you automatically assume the worst in situations like this but we always tried to keep positive and we got a good outcome."

He said his parents were shaken but, all things considered, in good shape.

Couple 'did right thing'

Stratford Aero Club president Nick Furmage said Alan Warner had been a member of the club for four years and was on board his private single engine Zenith aircraft.

The Rescue Coordination Centre said the two occupants were located beside the plane and winched to safety.

Chopper crewman Ben Wallbank (left) and pilot Mike Parker after Alan and Anne Warner were found.

Chopper crewman Ben Wallbank (left) and pilot Mike Parker after Alan and Anne Warner were found. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Rescue pilot Mike Parker said the pair could be seen walking around near the aircraft and they did the right thing by staying near it.

He said he was amazed the aircraft was found largely in one piece.

The pilot radioed the New Plymouth Control Tower about 4pm, when the plane was about 40 kilometres northeast of Whangamomona, to report poor weather conditions had forced it to head inland.

The plane was reported overdue at 5.30pm and a search aircraft detected what was believed to be a distress beacon signal coming from an area 4 kilometres south of Matau.

A police search and rescue team had tried to reach the area on foot yesterday, without success.

An Air Force helicopter from Ohakea also flew over the area where the plane was thought to be last night, but a four-hour search could not detect the source of the signal.