Emergency services beyond the cordon on Hughes Line. PHOTOS/ELI HILL

ELI HILL
eli.hill@age.co.nz

Witnesses have described the “terrible” moment two light planes collided in mid-air on Sunday south of Masterton before falling to the ground and catching fire.

Carolyn Playford, who lives at a house on nearby Hughes Line, was standing with her father by their car when they heard a loud bang.

They looked up to see debris from two planes falling to the ground on to farmland.

There was an immediate fire and black smoke, she said.

“[We] just heard this massive bang and then saw the debris coming out the sky and just swirling down,” Carolyn said.

“The fire happened as soon as they hit the ground. It just went up. It was terrible.”

Carolyn Playford, left, her father Graham Pearce, and Mike Playford.

Carolyn and husband Mike live at the property and Carolyn’s father, Graham Pearce, was visiting at the time.

“It just fell out of the sky,” Pearce said.

“There were bits and pieces everywhere.”

Mike Playford said it appeared that one plane was returning to Hood Aerodrome.

“We think one was coming out of the aerodrome and one was coming back in.”

He had heard a parachute opening some time before the collision – making him think a skydiving plane was involved.

A helicopter in the air at the time of the crash landed at the site immediately, the Playfords said.

“We heard sirens within about two minutes,” Carolyn said.

She said the incident had left the family shocked – “It has shaken us”.

Her father said it was something they would not forget.

The planes “were locked up and then they sort of fell to bits, and all the debris came down”, he said.

The crash happened in fine conditions, under blue skies and the family speculated that sunstrike may have been a factor.

Samson and Kena Te Whata witnessed the crash while driving along Carters Line.

Samson and Kena Te Whata had just turned into Carter’s Line from State Highway 2 when they saw the crash.

“The planes just clipped each other and then headed straight down to the ground,” Samson said.

“And we just drove straight around to see what was happening.”

“There was one explosion when it hit the ground and a second explosion when Kena was looking.”

Samson said that he’d seen one person pulled from the aircraft that hadn’t exploded.

“The plane that had exploded was already mangled.

“The one that didn’t explode, its canopy was mangled really.

“The person that would’ve come out from that, they would have had no hope.”