It’s not everyday a plane comes crashing down in your front yard and the occupants walk away unscathed but a non-plussed Sheila Riordan from Lawson couldn’t really understand all the fuss.
Three people survived the accident — the pilot and two passengers — after the Cirrus aircraft was forced to parachute to safety, landing in the front garden of Mrs Riordan’s Sayers Street home on Saturday afternoon. The crash site has since become something of a tourist attraction while police and aviation authorities investigate.
“It’s a bit of a crashing bore,” she said, with a smile, to the Blue Mountains Gazette. “People just ambling around in my yard ... TV crews, photographers. What’s it [the plane] going to do?”
Mrs Riordan’s fence and nearby powerlines were damaged during the crash landing and the power has been off since. An electricity van arrived while she was being interviewed on Monday but it was not to return power to her home. The driver was just one of many stopping to take a photo.
The Gazette understands about 2pm on Saturday, pilot Peter Edwards, 62, and two male passengers were taking a flight on the Cirrus light plane when they got into trouble. Mr Edwards was forced to deploy the aircraft’s ballistic recovery system parachute at 1300 metres. Mr Edwards told Nine News “the parachute system worked as it is supposed to ... it’s meant to save lives and it worked”. One of the passengers was taken to Nepean Hospital after complaining of neck and back pain, but was released that evening.
Mrs Riordan, 66, a former IT systems programmer, heard the ballistic charge go off from inside her home.
“I was trying to have a nap,” she said laughing. “I heard these bangs and thought ‘there’s no peace’. I heard the bangs but they didn’t sound like sinister bangs, because we have roadworks and there’s always some sort of racket, and then the neighbours came and hammered on the door, I wouldn’t have known otherwise.
“When I first saw it I thought ‘that’s a surprise’,” she said. “But I really am glad that no-one got hurt. It could have been awful, the bush could have gone up, people could have got hurt. It’s the only place they could have landed neatly.”
She made sure her cat, and a neighbour’s dog she was caring for, were out of the house just in case the plane went up.
Resident Robert Ross saw the plane falling from the sky from nearby Thompson Street and thought his own home was under threat.
“For two or three seconds I thought it was going to fall on this house or next door,” he said. “I was packing shit.
“I looked up and the engine started to splutter ... he got it going again and then it went dead. It was spiralling like in World War II.”
Mr Ross said he now “feels nervous around planes. It freaks me out.”
Some Lawson youth had tried to souvenir the propellor without success, Mrs Riordan said, and one resident had created a hand-made sign in the street announcing the opening of Lawson Airport.
Crowds of sightseers were still lining up on Monday including former RAAF engineer Don Lynch of Woodford and Royal Airforce armorer Terry Broadhead of Hazelbrook with his wife Frances, who called the escape from disaster “incredible”.
Civil Aviation Safety Authority spokesman Peter Gibson said the Australian Transport Safety Bureau would look at “what went wrong” and then CASA would examine the report’s results. The report could take anything from six months to a year to complete. Mr Gibson said he could only remember one or two other times when parachutes had been deployed from a light plane in the past decade in Australia and both had “good outcomes”.
Salvage crews started dismantling the aircraft on Tuesday after aviation authorities visited.