ACT News

Search for missing Batemans Bay man suspended for third consecutive day

The search for missing Batemans Bay man Ralph Buchanan has been suspended for the third consecutive due to poor sea and weather conditions, with NSW Police uncertain about the future of the search operation.

Mr Buchanan’s light-plane crashed into Batemans Bay around 12.30pm on Sunday claiming the life of his long-time friend and aviation instructor Graham White.

Ralph Buchanan: Missing off Batemans Bay since a plane crash on July 6.
Ralph Buchanan: Missing off Batemans Bay since a plane crash on July 6.  Photo: Batemans Bay Post.

Far South Coast Detective Inspector Kevin McNeil said the search had been suspended on Wednesday afternoon, Thursday, and Friday amid choppy sea conditions and poor weather.

“At the end of the day, the Marine Area Command and the experts in the field may say they’ve searched everywhere they can and that’s that,” he said.

Graham White died when the light plane he was flying crashed near Batemans Bay on Sunday.
Graham White died when the light plane he was flying crashed near Batemans Bay on Sunday. Photo: Supplied

“Any decision would be made in consultation with the appropriate people and discussions [regarding the search] will continue into next week.”

Mr McNeil said NSW Police would continue talking with the family of Mr Buchanan as they had been all week.


The Bureau of Meteorology issued a severe weather warning for the NSW coast on Friday morning, citing strong winds in the Batemans Bay and Eden Coast region that are expected to last until Saturday.

A NSW Police spokesman said the search for the experienced pilot was first suspended on Wednesday afternoon after crews experienced rough conditions with large waves and strong winds.

A spokesman from the Marine Rescue NSW base in Batemans Bay said he was yet to hear from NSW Police whether their services would be required over the weekend.

A Westpac Lifesaver Helicopter spokeswoman said they were not called to search for Mr Buchanan on Thursday or Friday and were yet to hear whether their services would be further required.

Westpac Lifesaver Helicopter chief executive Stephen Leahy said the search was close to the hearts of many staff with the helicopter service as they knew Mr Buchanan and Mr White from their time at Moruya Airport.

In a statement, the Westpac Life Saver Helicopter service said their "thoughts and prayers are with the men's families and our friends and colleagues at the Moruya Airport".

"Our crews were involved very quickly after the accident on Sunday and they recovered the body of Graham." 

Mr Buchanan and Mr White, who were both stalwarts of the Moruya Aero Club, left Moruya Airport at 11.10am on Sunday in Mr Buchanan's Morgan Sierra 200.

Witnesses to the crash reported seeing a plane plunge into the ocean shortly after noon about one kilometre off Barlings Beach.

Friend and fellow aviation enthusiast Alan Morton bought a plane with Mr Buchanan and was taught how to fly by the experienced Mr White.

Mr Morton said Mr Buchanan, who was the former owner of an electrical goods store in Batemans Bay, was an experienced pilot.

"The thing about Ralph is that he is the most pedantic and precise and particular person I've ever met," he said. "Everything was 'T's crossed and 'I's dotted.

"He was the most wonderful person to actually be in charge of our plane to make sure everything was absolutely correct and procedures were carried out."