UPDATE: A TIGHT-KNIT community is reeling at the death of a sick young girl and pilot in a charity flight crash.
A charity flight transporting a sick girl from hospital has turned to tragedy after the plane crashed in bad weather in the state's west, killing the girl and the pilot, the Herald Sun reports.
Jacinda Twigg, 15, of Nhill was an Angel Flight patient, on her way home from medical treatment in Melbourne.
The 69-year-old pilot, Don Kernot, who also died when the plane crashed in a paddock in Wallup, near Horsham, around 6.30pm yesterday, was an experienced volunteer for the charity, which offers free flights to medical facilities.
Jacinda's 43-year-old mother Julie-Ann was the only survivor of the crash and is in a critical condition at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, a hospital spokeswoman said.
She suffered head, chest and rib injuries and was stabilised at Wimmera Base Hospital in Horsham before being flown to the Royal Melbourne.
Nhill College in western Victoria was today rocked by Jacinda's death.
Principal Leonie Pretz described Jacinda as a popular and active school member despite often flying to Melbourne to treat her arthritis.
"She was a very hard-working student, a very kind and caring person, who looked after younger students and was very helpful to teachers, '' Ms Pretz asaid.
"She was involved in anything that was happening around the school particularly the drama festival that we had last week. Also she plays flute in the orchestra."
Jacinda's brother Nicholas is also a student at the school in year 10.
Ms Pretz said Jacinda's small year group of 40 students was devastated by her death.
"Several staff are very upset today,'' she said.
Ms Pretz said counselling was available at the school for all anyone who needed it.
Others have remembered the pilot as a "terrific bloke".
Mr Kernot was a close friend and next-door neighbour of Jarden Aviation operators Kim and Jack Jarden.
Mrs Jarden said she last saw Mr Kernot waving to her as he taxied off the runway yesterday morning.
She said he loved flying and helping others in the process.
“He was a terrific bloke,” Mrs Jarden said.
“If you needed a hand, he was there to help. We need more people like him.”
Mrs Jarden said Mr Kernot had moved to the area about 18 months ago from Geelong.
She said he had a passion for flying which stretched back decades.
Mr Kernot is believed to have had three children and several grandchildren.
Angel Flight founder and chief executive Bill Bristow said the girl and her mother flew with the charity every three months.
They had been on their 20th flight, from their home town of Nhill, near the crash site, and Essendon, in Melbourne's northwest.
"It was our nightmare scenario,'' Mr Bristow told ABC Radio today.
"Angel Flight has now helped or flown more than 11,000 missions of this sort with volunteer pilots and never an accident or an incident, so this has come as a dreadful shock to us.
"Something has gone wrong and what has gone wrong probably won't be known for some months, sometimes even years for these things.''
Mr Bristow said the pilot had more than 800 hours of in-command flight experience and a night flying rating and had flown 24 missions with the charity.
Mr Bristow said the charity was alerted to the tragedy about 9.30pm, when the flight failed to register its arrival with their search and rescue system.
He said the single-engine light aircraft was a safe means of travel, despite the accident.
"I'm afraid it's just an accident,'' Mr Bristow said.
"It's a very rare thing, light aircraft are a very safe means of travel and this is a rare and horrible case where it wasn't.
"We've got lots of checks and balances in place for pilots and for drivers.''
A team of four aviation safety investigators are attending the scene of the crash, said Neville Blyth, duty manager at the Australian Transport Safety Bureau.
They will conduct a preliminary site survey, examining the site and any evidence of impact marks, he said.
"They will also be talking to witnesses, both eyewitnesses and audio witnesses, that heard an aircraft flying low or a bang,'' Mr Blyth said.
"We'll also be interested in weather conditions at the time, if it was raining heavily, winds at the time, all the things that have an impact on aviation.''
He said investigators would spend three to four days examining the scene, going through the wreckage, talking to witnesses and gathering information.
They aim to have a preliminary factual report available within 30 days, with a final report explaining why and how the crash happened prepared within a year.
Emergency services were called to the scene after a local farmer reported seeing a low-flying plane, before hearing a crash.
"I heard the plane fly over probably about 6.15pm, flying low, heard the throttle, heard him throttle back a little bit... sounded fine, kept going, that's the last I heard and saw,'' a local man told ABC Radio.
The plane was found in a paddock off McLennans Road about 8pm.
Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Dean Stewart said winds in the area at the time of the crash had not been excessive.
He said there had been rain in the area earlier yesterday afternoon which would have made the air moist, with low cloud and the possibility of light showers.
Emergency crews scoured the area before finding the wreckage in a paddock two hours later.
Read more at the Herald Sun.