Body Found in Search for Queensland Mother Trista Applebee

By AAP

Police believe they have found the body of a Queensland mother after a vintage plane crashed during a joy flight to celebrate her birthday.

Trista Applebee, 31, was on a scenic flight with pilot Marcel van Hattem, 52, when the Soviet-era Yak 52 crashed into the sea off the Gold Coast on Wednesday, June 5.

Gold Coast Water Police on Friday night, June 7, found a woman’s body, believed to be Applebee, at a beach at North Stradbroke Island.

“Police believe the woman to be the 31-year-old passenger from the Yak 52 aircraft that failed to return from a flight that departed a Coombabah airfield,” a statement said.

Mr van Hattem’s body was previously found in wreckage off South Stradbroke Island.

The experienced Dutch pilot had taken his friend—the mother of an 11-year-old girl—for a short flight in perfect flying conditions.

The plane was spotted flying over South Stradbroke Island about half-an-hour after they took off from a Coombabah airstrip on the morning of June 5.

Debris was found about 5.30pm that same day.

Authorities weren’t told until early on the afternoon of June 5 that the plane was missing.

But Neil Aitkenhead, the president of the Southport Flying Club, said it was a private flight, so there was no way of knowing where the pilot had gone.

“It wasn’t until investigations dug deeper and found it was only intended to be a 30-minute flight that the alarm was raised,” he told AAP on June 6.

The same type of plane plunged into the ocean in the same area 11 years ago, killing the pilot and passenger.

Pilot Barry Hempel and his passenger, Ian Lovell, died when that Soviet-made Yak-52 crashed into the ocean off South Stradbroke Island in August 2008.