First published in The Age on October 20, 1970
Helicopter, plane hit: five killed
Shattered pieces rain down on Moorabbin houses
Four men and a nurse were killed when a helicopter and an air ambulance collided in mid-air over Moorabbin yesterday.
Wreckage of the Beechcraft D50 after it crashed in a laneway in Moorabbin.Credit:The Age Archives
Householders in the area had remarkable escapes when pieces of the aircraft came crashing down over a wide area.
“How no one on the ground was killed is beyond belief,” said one policeman. One witness said pieces of planes were flying through the air, “like bits of paper.”
Eyewitnesses said the air ambulance – a Beechcraft D50 – and the helicopter side-swiped each over about 1000 feet above Nepean Highway, about 2 pm.
The helicopter turned on its back, and started breaking up while plummeting to the ground. It crashed and burst into flames in the back yards of two houses in Prince Street.
The plane lost part of a wing, went into a slow spiral and crashed in a small lane between houses in Katoomba Street, 400 yards away.
The helicopter’s battery flew through the air, and smashed through a house roof in Prince Street, narrowly missing three women inside.
The plane tore down trees and fences as it ploughed along the narrow lane.
Part of its engine ripped through a sunroom of a nearby house in Katoomba Street.
Suzanne Dunn, 18, was in the house at the time, but was not injured. She had been sitting in the sunroom minutes before the accident.
The two occupants of the air ambulance, Nurse Helen Isabelle Lang and pilot Peter Raymond Stone, were killed in the wreckage.
Three people were killed in the helicopter. They were the pilot, Brian Cruickshank and two passengers, SEC linesmen Donald Ryan and Henry Clifford Scott.
It took police and firemen almost two hours to free their bodies from the wreck.
The helicopter was on its way back to Moorabbin airport.
The air ambulance was also returning to Moorabbin after taking two patients to Essendon airport.
A witness, photographer Alan Hassell of Moorabbin, said:
“The first thing I thought about was my wife and children, who were in our caravan about 200 yards from me.
“I thought they were going to crash right in the caravan park.”
When the helicopter’s remains ploughed into the backyard of Mr Ernest Cornish’s Prince Street home, his wife, Alice 56, was ironing.
“There was this dreadful explosion. I saw trees go up in the air,” she said.
Mr Keith Padman, 52, who lives next door said: “I saw things falling from the sky, and then I saw the fire.”
Mr Padman, and his wife Gladys were watching television in a sunroom when the helicopter crashed.
The pet cockatoo, Lulu, gave the alarm. The cocky, which has learnt to recognise the sound of planes, called: “It’s a plane, it’s a plane,” as the two aircraft crashed.
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