Three people have been killed after a firefighting aircraft crashed in the “difficult terrain” in the McKinlay area of Queensland, southeast of Mount Isa.
The twin-engine aircraft went down near the Eloise Copper Mine, near Cloncurry, local media said.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told reporters that the incident occurred while firefighters and support teams were working to control bushfires throughout the state.
“I am terribly saddened by what has happened,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
“The crew on board this aircraft have been doing everything they could to protect Queenslanders.
“I send my heartfelt condolences to the many people who have been impacted by this shocking incident.”
According to the Queensland Police, the light aircraft had been used to map bushfires and conduct aerial observation work, and it had been contracted by the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services.
Police said a member of the public alerted them to the crash just after 2.30pm local time on Saturday.
“Just after 2.30pm on Saturday, police were contacted by a local community member alerting officers to the crash,” a statement from Queensland Police said.
Officers from Mount Isa and a rescue helicopter were initially sent to the crash site, which police said was in “difficult terrain”.
Tom Armitt, Superintendent at the Mount Isa Police District said “police are responding from Cloncurry and Julia Creek to enable our disaster victim identification unit and our forensic crash unit to access the site”.
Flight tracking data provided by FlightRadar 24 indicated that a Gulfstream Aerospace Jetprop Commander aircraft departed from the Toowoomba Aerodrome at 10.54am. It proceeded in a north-western direction towards Mount Isa and ceased to appear on the radar screen at the location of the crash shortly after 2.30pm.
Queensland Fire and Emergency Services spokesperson said in a statement: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families at this time. Side by side we have been fighting these bushfires and their loss is felt by all.”
Additional reporting with agencies