2008 September: Toowoomba Crop Duster Crash

Crop duster pilot dies in crash near Toowoomba

TOOWOOMBA pilot Greg Cochran has died after a freak gust of wind flipped his crop duster causing it to crash to the ground where it burst into flames, 54 kilometres south-east of Toowoomba yesterday.

The former Wagners Aviation chief pilot and part-time CareFlight aviator was killed while spraying the final of three scheduled grain properties with rat and mice bait at Upper Pilton, on the Pilton Valley Road at 2.30pm.

Property owner Phillip Moore and passing motorists, who stopped to help, were unable to get to Mr Cochran after the light aircraft was engulfed in flames seconds after it crashed into the ground, just metres away from the roadway.

The stand-in  firefighters instead, focused their attentions on extinguishing the two-hectare grass fire that leapt across the Pilton Valley Road and threatened to burn out of control.

Police said Mr Cochran’s plane was preparing for another run to spray the poison on the scheduled property when cross winds caused the aircraft’s wings to rise and fall on both sides before flipping it into a 180 degree turn and into a nose-dive.

Late last night friends comforting Mr Cochran’s wife Toni and children, described Mr Cochran as “one of the nicest people the world will ever see.”

“It has been devastating news for his wife Toni and their three young children,” a friend said.

“He was one of Australia’s most qualified and experienced pilots and has been flying since he left high school,” he said.

“He was an exceptionally talented pilot who was one of the nicest people the world will ever see.”

Mr Cochran had been a commercial pilot for Ansett and lived in Dubai when flying Boeing 777 for Emirates Airlines.

In July, The Chronicle featured an in-depth story with a passionate Mr Cochran, the recently new owner of Rural Aviation of Toowoomba, as a mice-plague threatened to descend on the Darling Downs.

Clifton Police officer-in-charge Guy Smidt said the Department of Civil Aviation was contacted and were expected to arrive last night.