A report on the plane crash that killed champion bull rider John Quintana found he would likely still be alive if he had waited 30 minutes for daybreak.
Thirty minutes was the difference between life and death for world champion bull rider John Quintana.
Quintana was piloting a Cessna aircraft just before daybreak on March 25, 2013, when he banked too hard left after taking off from Roma airport in southern Queensland.
The subsequent impact killed him and Charlie Maher, the popular national chief executive of Ray White Livestock.
Quintana, who was crowned world bull riding champion in 1972, moved to Australia from the US in the 1980s.
Although he had racked up more than 6000 hours in the air, he did not have a licence to fly at night.
An air crash investigation report released on Tuesday reveals Quintana took off about 30 minutes before daybreak and became “spatially disorientated” upon turning west towards Cloncurry.
The moon had set, the sun had not yet risen, and Quintana had never before flown over an unlit Australian outback.
With no visible horizon in the west to help level the plane, its wing struck a tree about 1.5km northwest of the Roma airport runway, leaving a wreckage trail about 200m long.
“If the pilot had delayed the departure by 30 minutes, the flight would most likely have progressed safely,” the Australian Transport Safety Bureau report says.
Spatial disorientation occurs when a pilot does not correctly sense the position, motion and altitude of an aircraft in relation to the earth’s surface.
Quintana appears to have been so disorientated that the wreckage trail was perpendicular to its intended direction.
“It is often simply described as the inability to determine which way is up, although the effects of disorientation can be considerably more subtle,” the report says.
Toxicology testing on Quintana found low concentrations of prescribed medications used to treat insomnia; however, it’s “highly unlikely” the drugs contributed to the crash.
No mechanical faults were found by investigators.