Coronial finding into two men killed during 2014 Sydney to Hobart yacht race

A coronial investigation into an air crash that claimed the lives of two people covering the 2014 Sydney to Hobart yacht race has found the incident was caused by pilot error.

Coroner Simon Cooper said witnesses to the crash had reported that the Cessna 172S VH-PFT was flying about 50 feet above the sea surface.

He said the aircraft was then seen performing a steep turn.

“I am satisfied that the cause of the crash, in light of the witness descriptions and the absence of 11 any contributing weather or mechanical issues, was that VH-PFT stalled,” Mr Cooper said.

“Whilst recovery from such an incident is something pilots routinely practice and are trained for, successful recovery requires there being sufficient altitude. 

“Given the height at which VH-PFT was being flown immediately prior to the crash there was insufficient altitude to enable the pilot to recover from the stall.

“The common theme that emerges from the witness accounts was that the aircraft was, immediately prior to the happening of the crash, flying at a very low height.”

The crash killed pilot Samuel Peter Langford and photographer Timothy Peter Jones.

Records as part of the investigation showed that Mr Langford had about 18 hours of low-level flying experience.

Photographs from Mr Jones’ camera were used as evidence of the calm weather conditions at the time of the crash, as was witness testimony.

There was an inspection carried out on the aircraft five days before the crash which found no defects.