Dead pilot was experienced flyer
THE pilot killed when his ultralight aircraft crashed near Tatham on Friday was ‘a great guy who loved to fly’, a friend and fellow airman said.
Michael O’Keefe, 27, of Georgica, was also an experienced pilot who didn’t take risks, said the friend, who asked not to be named.
“I flew a lot with him. We would often go to Grafton, have a pub lunch and fly back,” he said.
Mr O’Keefe and a companion died on Friday afternoon when Mr O’Keefe’s Drifter ultralight crashed into a paddock off the Tatham-Ellangowan Road, south-east of Casino.
A witness reported hearing a ‘breaking’ sound and looked up to see the ultralight spiralling towards the ground.
Related: Ultralight crash leaves two dead
Mr O’Keefe had a daughter and his wife, Michelle, is expecting another child. She is deeply shocked and is staying with friends.
The wreckage of the aircraft was still in the field on Saturday morning, its tangled metal bearing mute testimony to the two men’s sudden deaths.
An investigator with the Recreational Aviation Association was on the scene early, and forensic detectives were also expected to visit the crash site.
Police are working to identify the passenger and inform family members.
Officers from Richmond Local Area Command are preparing a report for the coroner.
Wayne Fisher, of Spectrum Aviation in Lismore, was one of Mr O’Keefe’sinstructors.
He said Mr O’Keefe had been to ‘a few’ instructors, including some in Sydney.
He could not remember how many flying hours he had up, but knew that Mr O’Keefe was going for his commercial pilot’s licence.
Mr O’Keefe was ‘a bit of a mystery’, Mr Fisher said. “I wouldn’t see him for months at a time.”
Mr O’Keefe’s friend said he ‘flew and flew and flew’ and had perhaps 300 to 400 hours’ experience piloting ultralights.
“He loved his aeroplane and loved flying. He died doing what he loved.”
Mr O’Keefe was ‘a good pilot’, he said.
“He knew what he was doing. He respected life and wouldn’t take risks.”
Although not naming the passenger in the ultralight, the friend said the man had flown with Mr O’Keefe ‘more than any of us’.
He denied Mr O’Keefe had the nickname of ‘Maverick’.