‘Mayday’: Jet’s distress call after mid-air crash, two people missing

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Emergency services are searching for a pilot and passenger in Port Phillip Bay after a former military jet crashed into the water near Mount Martha, in Melbourne’s south-east, on Sunday afternoon.

Two light Viper S-211 Marchetti planes collided mid-air about 12 kilometres west of Mount Martha on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said.

Police search the water after a jet crashed into Port Phillip Bay on Sunday.Credit: Nine News

AMSA said one aircraft crashed into Port Phillip Bay, while the other plane, which also had two people on board, was able to land safely at Essendon Airport.

Police said emergency services were called to the Esplanade in Mount Martha about 1.45pm after reports of an aircraft incident.

Crash debris had been spotted floating on the water where the emergency service workers were searching.

AMSA has three rescue helicopters searching the scene and is coordinating the response with the Victorian Water Police and volunteer marine rescue units.

Members of the Air Wing, Water Police and uniformed police officers took part in the search.

Viper S-211 Marchettis are Italian-made fighter planes now primarily used for air force training, and are a regular sight in the local skies taking people on training, sorties, aerobatic flights and sightseeing tours.

Channel Nine reported that the plane that landed at Essendon showed signs of damage and had been taped off by police in its hangar.

The pilot, who sent the “mayday” message after the collision, had been drug and alcohol tested, which is standard protocol for investigating such a collision, Nine also reported.

The other S211 jet in its hanger, behind police tape, in Essendon on Sunday afternoon.Credit: Nine News

Channel Nine also broadcast audio of the “mayday” call in which the pilot told authorities he had seen a “splash mark” where the other Viper had hit the water.

Parts of the plane were initially pulled from the water, but the search continues for any sign of the two people in the aircraft.

Police believe the jets would have been visible from Mount Martha between 1pm and 2pm on Sunday and have appealed for anyone who witnessed the collision or had vision of the planes to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or visit the www.crimestoppers.com.au website.

Emergency services use boats and helicopters to search Port Phillip Bay on Sunday afternoon.Credit: Nine News

Police said investigations were ongoing and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau had been notified of the incident.

Authorities planned to continue the search for the two people until last light on Sunday.

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