FOUR locals who helped pull an Inverell couple and their daughter from a fiery plane crash are being considered for bravery awards.
The bystanders were on scene almost immediately on Friday, helping to drag local GP Dr Mark Harding, his wife and school teacher Caro Harding and their teenage daughter free of the crashed Cessna 210 after it hit the ground and exploded.
Dr Harding suffered severe burns to his hands and lower body. He is listed as stable in a specialist burns unit in a Sydney hospital, while Mrs Harding passed away from critical injuries early on Saturday morning.
Miraculously, their teenage daughter was released from hospital just hours after the accident.
New England acting crime manager Inspector Roger Best said four locals jumped into action and helped to retrieve the family from the burning wreckage in the Clive State Forest before emergency services arrived.
“Their actions are currently being reviewed and consideration will be given for official recognition for their bravery in the near future,” he said yesterday.
“At this point, as you can imagine, they are very distressed, having witnessed a horrific scene, and privacy at this time is appropriate.”
Eyewitnesses said the locals first on the scene did everything they could to help save the family, despite the fiery inferno that took hold in the grass.
“They have put themselves at significant risk through their actions to assist others and they should be recognised appropriately,” Inspector Best said.
“Police have spoken to all these persons and it is clear that their actions were exceptional in the circumstances.”
Locals have begun rallying around the family’s three children as Dr Harding recovers in hospital.
The horrific crash has shocked the tight-knit Inverell community, which is trying to come to terms with the death of the popular kindergarten teacher.
The couple just celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary early last week and were en route to visit family last Friday.
Four investigators from the Australian Transport and Safety Bureau arrived at the crash site on Sunday and have started trying to piece together what went horribly wrong.
The investigators will talk to eyewitnesses, gather statements and look at the maintenance records of the plane as part of a report which will be prepared for the coroner.
The single-engine aircraft took off from the Inverell Airport about 1.10pm when the engine was heard to fail in mid-air before it crashed to the ground.