Newspaper Article 1971 – Wind “Trap” May Have Caused Crash

Bodies of three Napier men brought out


The bodies of three Napier men killed when the light aircraft they were flying crashed in rugged hill country near Te Pohue on Saturday were brought out of the area last night.

The area where the plane, a Piper Cherokee, crashed is in a saddle of the Maungaharuru Range, south of the Mohaka River and east of the Napier-Taupo highway.

It has been described as an area notorious for wind and down-draughts.

The plane, valued at $12,000, was owned by the Hawke’s Bay and East Coast Aero Club and was equipped with blind weather instrument aids.

The men killed in the crash which happened shortly after 8 a.m. on Saturday, were:
Mr Gerald Peter Price, 43, chemist, 284 Kennedy Road, pilot of the plane,
Mr Bryan Mackie Dunlop, 44, chemist, 43 Flanders Avenue,
Mr Leonard Alexander Wright, 42, Inland Revenue clerk, 87 Coverdale Street.

All were married men, and each leaves a family of three.

The men were on a private flight to Tauranga, but had planned to stop over at Hamilton, where Mr Wright intended to take part in a smallbore rifle championship shoot.


The men left the Bridge Pa aerodrome, Hastings, at 7.45 a.m. and were scheduled to complete the flight in 1½ hours. They had enough fuel for four hours’ flying and were reported missing at 11 a.m. The Auckland Rescue Co-ordination Centre at Whenuapai immediately called in two R.N.Z.A.F. Orion aircraft to search the missing plane’s flight route.

The route was also searched by another Piper Cherokee from Hastings, but nothing was found.

The Napier police were advised by Mr Peter Brooks, a farmer of Glen Falls Station, Te Pohue, at 3.20 p.m. that he had heard a plane flying in the vicinity of a 4280ft hill on his property about 8 a.m.

Mr Brooks thought he heard the engines stop. The weather at the time was windy and foggy.


“I had the feeling the plane might have gone down on my property,” he said.

At 6.30 p.m. Mr Brooks and five other men from Te Pohue left on horseback to search the Galbraith Hut area near the Maungaharuru Range. However, they gave up the search at 10.10 p.m. without finding the missing aircraft.

Three other Te Pohue farmers Messrs Dick Cave, John Orvis and John Brooks, set out on horseback at 5.40 a.m. yesterday to search for the aircraft.

The men were equipped with a citizens’ band radio, and Mrs Cave advised the Napier police at 10.45 a.m. that the plane had been found near the Galbraith Hut and that there were no survivors. Napier police, under the control of the search director, Senior-Sergeant B. Fahey, set up a field station on Mr Peter Brooks’ farm.

Senior-Sergeant R. J. Stewart led a 54-man search and rescue party into the area, reaching the aircraft after a walk of about a mile over rugged hill country. The bodies were brought out and conveyed to Napier by 8 p.m.

Mr Stewart said today that the area where the plane crashed was covered in second growth prairie grass.

He discounted reports that one of the dead men might have fired rifle shots before he died.

The police had received reports of rifle shots being heard in the area about the time the plane crashed.

Mr Stewart, who is a firearms instructor with the police, said: “I inspected the rifle and it had not been fired. What is more, it was in the plane’s luggage compartment and the men were trapped in the plane.”

Today, Mr Cave described the area where the plane crashed as “notorious country for wind”.

“When we went in searching for the men we had to hold on hard to the reins of our horses, or we would have been blown off,” he said.


A returned serviceman, Mr Cave said the wreckage was scattered over a 300-yard area, but it had not caught fire.

“It appeared to have attempted to clear a saddle between Glen Falls Station and the Maungaharuru Range, and then got caught in a down-draught from the north-west,” he said.

“The plane actually crashed in a patch of scrub and broken gulleys.

“From what I could see, the plane got out of control in the down-draught and was driven into the ground. The wheels, undercarriage and wings were torn off, but the men were in the cabin of the plane.


“They were not badly knocked about.

“It also appeared as if the plane had stood on its nose, but it was upright and facing the opposite direction from which it went in.

“The weather was foggy and light rain was falling  at the time.”

Senior-Sergeant Fahey today praised the Te Pohue farmers who had assisted in the search and said they had been most co-operative.

Mr Price has been described by fellow aero club pilots as an experienced pilot who had done “quite a bit” of cross-country flying.

He is survived by his wife, Mrs Dorothy Price, and three children, Charles, Donald and Susan.

Mr Wright is survived by his wife, Mrs Judith Wright, and three children, Phillip, Jonathan and Louise.

Mr Dunlop in [is] survived by his wife, Mrs Joan Dunlop, and three children, Wendy, Dianne and Bruce.

Two aircraft accident inspectors from Air Department are to inspect the wreck tomorrow.


One of the three men killed in the light aircraft crash at Te Pohue on Saturday had only recently been appointed the Hawke’s Bay Lawn Tennis Club’s professional junior coach.

He was Mr Leonard (Ash) Alexander Wright, who came to Napier from Blenheim 15 months ago.

Mr Wright, a teaching professional for six years, studied under the leading British coach, Dan Maskell, and the Australian Davis Cup captain and coach, Harry Hopman.


Mr Wright was a former R.N.Z.A.F. aircraft engine fitter and while serving in Cyprus in the early 1950s won the R.A.F. tennis titles on the island, as well as the combined services championship in the Middle East.

Mr Wright represented Manawatu and Marlborough at table tennis and Marlborough at athletics.

Mr Wright was an A grade smallbore shooter and a member of the Napier Smallbore Rifle Club. Before coming to Napier he won a New Zealand B grade championship.


He was also a member of the Blenheim civil defence organisation.

The two other men killed in the crash, Mr Bryan Mackie Dunlop and Mr Gerald Peter Price, were both Napier chemists.

Mr Dunlop was born in Napier and educated at the Te Awa School and the Napier Boys’ High School.

He had a pharmacy business in Johnsonville for about eight or nine years and took over the Balmoral Pharmacy in Napier five years ago.

He was a member of the Napier Camera Club and a former Hawke’s Bay hockey representative. He was also a keen archer and tennis player.

Mr Dunlop was a Napier Jaycee and was formerly on the Onekawa and Wycliffe Parent – Teacher Associations.


Mr Price was born in Napier and received most of his education in Tauranga, where he was a foundation pupil of Tauranga College.

He served his pharamaceutical [pharmaceutical] apprenticeship under Mr D. Syme, of Havelock North.

Mr Price worked in Hastings and Wanganui for a period before opening his own business at Martinborough. He later opened the Epuni Pharmacy in the Hutt Valley and two years ago came to Napier and bought Beck’s Pharmacy.

He was a conclave member of the Scinde Lodge, and was a member of both the Napier Aero Club and the Hawke’s Bay and East Coast Aero Club.

Mr Price, an amateur radio “ham”, was a keen shooter, fisherman and hunter. He also took part in other outdoor sports, including tennis and boating.


A Napier accountant, Mr G. S. Luxford, considers himself lucky to be alive. He was one of several people who turned down an invitation to fly to Tauranga in a light aircraft which crashed near Te Pohue and killed the three men on board.

Mr Leonard Alexander Wright, one of the men killed in the crash, was a member of the Napier Smallbore Rifle Club, and asked Mr Luxford, who is also a keen shooter, to accompany him on the flight as he had planned to take part in a championship shoot at Hamilton.

“He asked me if I would like to go because they had a spare seat,” Mr Luxford said.

“However, I had to turn the trip down as I wasn’t able to go. It is just one of those things. Several other club members were approached, but they were also unable to go.”

Photo captions –


THE ARROW in this map indicates the point at which the plane crashed.

THE TAIL OF THE AIRCRAFT as it came to rest in second growth of prairie scrub.

THE SHATTERED CABIN AND MOTOR of the wrecked Piper Cherokee are examined by two members of the ground rescue party.

Original digital file


Non-commercial use

Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 New Zealand (CC BY-NC 3.0 NZ)

This work is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 New Zealand (CC BY-NC 3.0 NZ).


Commercial Use

Copyright on this material is owned by Hawke's Bay Today and is not available for commercial use without their consent.


Accident occurred 2 October 1971

Format of the original

Newspaper article

Date published

4 October 1971


The Daily Telegraph


Published with permission of Hawke's Bay Today


  • John Brooks
  • Peter Brooks
  • Dick Cave
  • Bryan Mackie Dunlop
  • Mrs Joan Dunlop
  • Wendy, Dianne and Bruce Dunlop
  • Sergeant B Fahey
  • Harry Hopman
  • G S Luxford
  • Dan Maskell
  • John Orvis
  • Charles, Donald and Susan Price
  • Mrs Dorothy Price
  • Gerald Peter Price
  • Senior-Sergeant R J Stewart
  • Mrs Judith Wright
  • Leonard (Ash) Alexander Wright
  • Phillip, Jonathan and Louise Wright

Accession number


Do you know something about this record?

Please note we cannot verify the accuracy of any information posted by the community.

Supporters and sponsors

We sincerely thank the following businesses and organisations for their support.