The Thorp S-18 which crashed at Whenuapai air base was piloted by owner, Wayne Matthews. He and his passenger Brent Baldwin both died on impact. Matthews had seven or eight years experience flying, and was about to order a high-performance American aircraft.
The aircraft exploded into flames, which were licking the walls of the liquid oxygen storage building when air force fire tenders arrived within a minute. Fortunately the liquid oxygen, which is stored under pressure, did not explode.
Baldwin and Matthews both retired from the air force.
The aircraft clipped a building on its descent before it exploded into flames.
Aerial photographs of the flight bath were taken to assist in the inquiry, but currently no one knows the cause behind the crash.