Crash kills glider pilot

TWO cousins watched in shock as a motorised glider struck power lines and then crashed onto a road, killing the pilot.

Ilmari Rintesalo, of Finland, died at the scene of the crash which happened just after noon on Friday on Redlands Road on the western edge of Corowa.

Police said Mr Rintesalo’s glider hit power lines between Cemetery Road and Jasmin Court and crashed inverted onto the road.

It came to rest on the side of Redlands Road with its tail hanging over a fence.

Corowa cousins Justin and Nick Brockley were driving towards town when they saw the tragedy unfold.

“The plane was flying along and we were watching it and it just kept coming down and down, so we slowed down and it just turned across and hit the power lines,” Nick, 17, said.

“A big flash went off and the power line came across and hit the ute.”

Justin, 20, who was at the wheel of the Holden utility, said he was nearly stationary when his bonnet, cabin and tray cover was lashed by the severed power lines.

“When it happened, when it hit, I stopped and the power lines just came down,” Justin said.

“You could see them snapping off the poles.”

The Brockley cousins phoned emergency services, with ambulance crews, firefighters, Volunteer Rescue Association members and police responding.

At the Corowa airport, about 600 metres from the crash site, Mr Rintesalo’s colleagues were in shock.

Australian Soaring Centre chief instructor Grietje Wansink said Mr Rintesalo had been the second pilot to take-off from the airport on Friday.

“He was a really experienced pilot — flying was his life,” Mrs Wansink said.

“He was really such a nice man, he was a really funny man and he was always happy and very relaxed.”

Mrs Wansink said she exchanged “Merry Christmases” with Mr Rintesalo only an hour before the crash.

She said Mr Rintesalo had been holidaying in Australia with his wife and friends and had brought his own glider from Finland.

The retiree went gliding all-year round enjoying summers in the air in the northern and southern hemispheres.

“It’s a huge shock,” Mrs Wansink said.

“This is our first (fatal accident) since we’ve been running the soaring centre and we’ve been running the centre for 10 seasons.”

Mrs Wansink said the accident happened during the glider’s self-launch with the aircraft unable to climb normally.

However, the precise cause of the crash is unclear with investigations continuing.

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