Rescuers airlift crash survivors

An AusSAR Success Story

A group of men have been airlifted to safety after heavy weather today hampered initial efforts to pluck them from their rugged mountain air crash site.

The men were forced to endure sub-zero overnight temperatures after their plane crashed near Mt Baw Baw in Victoria's high country. They were finally rescued this morning after a search of rugged high country.

Metropolitan Ambulance Service spokeswoman Liana Cross said all four men were taken to the La Trobe Valley Hospital with minor cuts and bruises after weather conditions hampered efforts earlier in the day.

Low cloud hampered initial rescue efforts, Ms Cross said.

"It took a while because of the fog up there this morning, but it did clear for a few minutes and the air ambulance was able to gain access (to the crash site)," she said.

Freezing night on mountain

The group spent the night in rugged bushland on Mt Kernot, about 5km east of the Mt Baw Baw ski resort

 east of Melbourne, after their Cessna aircraft crash landed shortly before 6pm yesterday en route from Merimbula to Essendon Airport.

The men were discovered around 8.30am today after spending a freezing night outdoors, with temperatures dropping as low as minus 2C.

Paramedics reached the men by four-wheel drive but two of the men were unable to walk and heavy fog made it difficult for rescuers to airlift the men to safety.

One of the men has a hip injury and the other has possible hypothermia. 

Rescuers were alerted to the crash landing when the pilot used his mobile phone to contact national search and rescue organisation AusSAR.

'Pilot did a fabulous job'

An AusSAR spokeswoman said the pilot rang the organisation's rescue coordination centre in Canberra on his mobile phone immediately after the crash.

"We were in contact for him about 30 mins then lost connection," Ms Jiggins said.

"They had a beacon on board so we were able to monitor their position through the night.

"All beacon activation is satellite detected and that comes through to us in Canberra, and then we feed that information back to the police who are on the ground searching."

Ms Jiggins said Victoria Police coordinated the search out of the nearby township of Rawson, from where three ground crews searched overnight.

'Pretty good tale of survival'

Inspector Barry Gibson of the Victoria Police search and rescue squad said the crew of the Gippsland-based Helimed 1 ambulance helicopter contacted the pilot by mobile phone shortly after 8.15am and search crews reached the plane by foot shortly before 8.30am.

Mr Gibson said the incident was "a pretty good tale of survival''.

The plane is on Mt Kernot, atop the Baw Baw plateau and about 1,500m above sea level, he said.

Temperatures dipped to minus 2C in the area overnight.

"When you actually look on the map it's quite rugged terrain.

"The pilot has done a fabulous job.

"It appears he has landed on the top of the plateau there. If he had taken it two kilometres east of his current location it would have been very much like a jungle.''

It is unclear at this stage what caused the crash.

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