A land and air search has failed to find any sign of a plane crash after locals reported hearing a “thud” and seeing a plume of smoke near Dungowan.
A local raised the alarm on Sunday afternoon to report the sighting, sparking a search across rough terrain that continued until late yesterday and raised fears of a third air emergency in the past six days.
The mystery of what might have happened deepened as treacherous weather hampered the search and low cloud engulfed the mountain – the area where locals believed a plane had gone down.
Visibility was poor and at times the search party could not see more than 15m in front of them. Deemed to be too dangerous, the search was called off late on Sunday.
“We’ve conducted a significant search of the area concerned with nil-find,” incident commander Inspector Jeff Budd told The Leader yesterday.
Despite no reports of missing persons or planes, emergency services threw every resource at the search.
The Westpac Rescue Helicopter took to the skies again yesterday while close to 30 RFS, SES and police scoured the ground.
“Approximately 20 square kilometres in total were searched from the ground and air,” Inspector Budd said.
“It’s tough terrain, certainly the RFS and SES were exhausted after their walks with police.
“Parts of it are dense, there is some broken scrub, some clearings.”
Again yesterday morning low cloud hampered the search before it lifted mid-morning.
Superintendent Allyn Purkiss had 19 volunteers deployed to the search including members from brigades in Tamworth, Manilla, Dungowan, Piallamore, Kootingal, Nundle.
“The volunteers searched one big ridge line, they were looking for anything that resembled some sort of debris or fire,” he said.
“Some of the area would have been quite open, some of it a bit thicker especially on the south eastern side.”
And it was locals who proved an invaluable resource for emergency services, according to police.
“We thank the property owners for their quick notification to emergency services,” Inspector Budd said.
“Their advice and guidance through the scrub up there was excellent as well as the assistance from emergency services.
“Importantly at this point of time there is no reports of missing persons or missing planes.
“We will continue to monitor that and see what happens.”