Community pays tribute to father, son killed in plane crash
A FATHER and son killed after their light aircraft crashed in rugged terrain in northern NSW have been named by their church as Jeff and Matthew Hills.
The Elevation Church at Burleigh Heads confirmed the tragic news in an email to church members this afternoon naming the pair as the victims of the plane crash.
The bodies of Matthew Hills, 25, a former Emmanuel College student who worked at IFly Indoor Skydiving in Surfers Paradise and his father Jeff, 59, were recovered Saturday morning from the wreckage by rescue crews.
The church released a statement Saturday afternoon expressing their devastation at the tragedy.
"It is with great sadness that we share the news of the passing of two Elevation family members," it read.
"Jeff Hills and his son Matthew Hills have died after a plane accident in Northern NSW yesterday.
"We are devastated by this tragedy and our hearts, prayers and thoughts are with Jenny, Jamie, Josh and the entire family.
"We thank you for your continued prayers and support for this beloved family.
"Although we are rocked by this tragedy, we find peace in Christ, our true foundation and where we find hope and refuge during this difficult time."
Cr Glenn Tozer who was known to the family also paid tribute to the men.
"Jeffrey Hills and his family are wonderful community minded people," he said.
"He made a significant contribution to the local Mudgeeraba community in many ways that people might never know.
"Jeffrey was instrumental in the construction of the Mosaic Baptist Church buildings in #Mudgeeraba (opposite the Showgrounds), but was also active in many other community activities and charitable initiatives.
"These were good people. It is heartbreaking to hear of this loss.
"Our thoughts are with Jenny and his family as they grieve this terrible loss.
"It is a terribly sad time."
Rescue crews located the scattered wreckage of the propeller-driven Mooney M20 four-seater plane on Saturday, which crashed 27km west of Coffs Harbour some time after 6.30am on Friday.
Numerous parts of the plane, with registration VH-DJU, have been found over about 100m in the Dorrigo National Park.
NSW Police Chief Inspector Brendan Gorman confirmed family members of the deceased have been contacted.
"The plane was located on a ridge-line just above the Gleniffer area where it struck the side of the mountain," he said.
"This operation was made difficult by what we needed to do to get to the location.
About 20 police, SES and National Parks and Wildlife have been involved in the operation.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said the plane departed Murwillumbah at 6.30am Friday and was expected to arrive at Taree by 8am the same day.
"AMSA was contacted by associates of the pilot who raised concerns when the aircraft did not arrive at its destination," the AMSA statement said.
"About 6.30am Saturday the Westpac Rescue Helicopter (Westpac 4) located the crash site."
The search area was based on the last contact with the aircraft's transponder.
A report is being prepared for the coroner.