SES and Police divers pictured in April trying to retrieve the plane that crashed into the Clarence River at Yates Crossing, Ewingar.
SES and Police divers pictured in April trying to retrieve the plane that crashed into the Clarence River at Yates Crossing, Ewingar. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Pilot to go to trial over death of child in plane crash

A GOONENGERRY pilot who crashed his ultra light into the Clarence River at Ewingar last April, killing an 11-year-old girl, will stand trial in the District Court.

John Patrick Crumpton appeared in Lismore Local Court yesterday supported by family members and he was represented by his solicitor, Ms O'Shannessy.

The then 54-year-old stands accused of hitting a powerline then crashing his Maule M-5 light plane into the Clarence River on April 12, 2014.

Kayla Whitten was killed in the crash.

An Australian Transport Safety Bureau report on the incident released in January found that after hitting powerlines, the plane flipped and came to rest with the cabin upside down and underwater.

Both Mr Crumpton and Kayla's father, 36, escaped through a forward door, but they could not free Kayla from the back of the flooded cabin.

Mr Crumpton was charged with manslaughter, causing reckless grievous bodily harm, flying an aircraft below 500 feet, reckless wounding and operating an aircraft recklessly endangering a person or property.

On March 20, an additional charge of operating an aircraft recklessly to endanger the life of a person was laid under Section 20 A1 of Civil Aviation Act.

Mr Heffernan also asked Magistrate David Heilpern to amend the wording of two charges.

The manslaughter charge was amended to include the words "did unlawfully kill Kayla Whitton" by Mr Heilpern.

The operating an aircraft recklessly charge was amended to include "did operate VH-HOG being reckless as to whether the manner of operation could endanger a person, namely David Whitton".

Ms O'Shannessy told the court charges of flying an aircraft below 500 feet and operating an aircraft recklessly endangering the life of a person would be listed as backup charges to be considered during sentencing.

Mr Crumpton waived his right to a committal hearing in the District Court.

Mr Heilpern adjourned Mr Crumpton's matters until a date in May at Lismore District Court.


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