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Two fight for lives after plane crash
Helping hands: People rushed to help the men as the plane burned on the oval. Picture: Adam Francis/Facebook

A pilot and his passenger are fighting for their lives after a homebuilt plane narrowly missed power lines before crashing through a goalpost and exploding on a suburban football oval.

Aviation enthusiasts Tony White, who is believed to have been flying the plane, and Ralph Lerch were in the aircraft when it had engine trouble soon after leaving Jandakot airport about 2.30pm.

The pair searched desperately for an open space to land the stricken plane, eventually setting their sights on a football oval next to Lakeland Senior High School. But as it came in to land, the plane flew over Berrigan Drive before flying under power lines and striking a goalpost on the oval.

It then flipped upside down, hit the ground and skidded across the oval, bursting into flames and coming to rest.

Sen. Sgt Glenn Swannell, from Murdoch police, revealed that students from Lakeland Senior High School would usually have been using the council oval for physical education classes at the time of the crash but had instead gone ten-pin bowling.

Witnesses described horrific scenes as the two men - who police said were aged in their 40s and 50s - crawled from the wreckage with their clothes on fire and rolled on the ground to put out the flames.

Mr White, who is married with children, and Mr Lerch were in a critical condition in Royal Perth Hospital last night.

  • _The West Australian _ *believes Mr White is in an induced coma with third-degree burns to his legs.

The amateur-built aircraft - a single-engine, two-person Glasair III worth about $66,000 - was built overseas in 2000.

It was registered by Mr White in 2008.

The planes are sold in kit form and built by amateur aircraft builders, who are often the owners. It is understood Mr White did not build the Glasair III but he has built other planes. Mr Lerch owns a plane of the same make.

Sen. Sgt Swannell praised two officers from Murdoch police station who had seen the plane "in some sort of trouble" and were the first on the scene.

"They helped the two people out of the aircraft," he said.

"They helped the people away from the crash scene and they rendered them immediate first aid, which for the officers would have been an upsetting thing to have to go through.

"But that's what they get paid to do and they do that successfully."

Sen. Sgt Swannell said the pilot had shown enough skill to fly the plane under the power lines and bring it to ground on the oval, describing the feat as a "significant achievement".

"I think if anyone survives a crash, it's a pretty significant lucky day for them," he said.

Witness Damien Burgess was driving near the oval when he heard a loud bang and saw the plane skid to a halt on the grass. He saw two shirtless men crawling on the ground before others ran to their aid carrying fire extinguishers and first-aid boxes.

Mr Burgess said spot fires were burning along the oval and the men, who were covered in blood and soot, were struggling to breathe.

He said at the time he could still hear "mini-explosions" and popping noises coming from the plane.

Mr White is a member of the Sport Aircraft Builders Club and friends describe him as an experienced and competent pilot.

He is well known in Kalgoorlie where he founded and owned Kalassay, a successful mining analysis company, before selling it for tens of millions of dollars and moving to Perth.

Kalassay business development manager Noel English, who worked under Mr White before he sold the company, said he was well known within mining circles.

"He was a very good businessman, an entrepreneur," Mr English said.

"A lot of people would know him here and in Kalgoorlie."

Fellow flying enthusiast Brian Holman has flown with Mr White several times.

"I have flown in formation with him before and he is certainly a very competent pilot," he said.

"It can happen to anyone."