More than two weeks after a mystery plane crashed in Australia, authorities have finally identified a crew member and his partner as the two missing people who were found dead on a remote property near Sydney.
Key points:The search for the missing couple has spanned more than two yearsThe Australian Federal Police (AFP) is still investigating the case and says the plane crash is “unusual” and a “major incident”The pair’s bodies were found on a property near the city of Newcastle last Friday nightPolice say the couple’s body was found in the woods on the property, about 80 kilometres (50 miles) north of Sydney, and police are now treating the crash as a major incidentPolice say they are still trying to establish what happened to the missing AustraliansThe plane, a Boeing 737-300ER, vanished at about 11:15pm on Friday night (local time) while flying to Sydney from Melbourne.
Two people were on board, a man and a woman, but the pilot was never found.
Investigators found the bodies of the two people inside the plane, and the aircraft was found abandoned in the bush near a small rural community in the Northern Territory.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) said on Monday that two of the people who died were pilot and flight engineer, and that the second had been killed when the plane was lost in mid-air.
“The first officer, Captain Daniel Dutchess, was a qualified pilot, having served in the Australian Defence Force,” the ATSB said.
“Captain Dutches was a skilled pilot, with experience operating the aircraft from a training aircraft.”
The plane had undergone extensive maintenance and was well equipped for its role as a training and air-to-air aircraft.
The second officer, a qualified flight instructor, had also been on the plane.
He had a criminal record for theft and had not been employed by the airline.
He and his wife, who were also on the flight, were both in their late 60s, police said.
Their bodies were later recovered from the woods near the town of Newcastle.
Authorities were still working to establish the cause of the crash, and have been trying to piece together the events leading up to the disappearance.
The search has stretched for more than a year, and has involved a team of more than 100 officers from various state and federal agencies.
The ATSB has said the search was a “massive incident” involving more than 2,000 officers and that investigators were still investigating whether any people were aboard.
“This is a massive incident, which is unprecedented and a major event,” Assistant Commissioner Mark Wylie said.