FOLLOWING the death of his beloved wife Kym three years ago, Grant Burley had been slowly trying to rebuild his life.
For a while the Sydney businessman looked like he had another shot at happiness after meeting his new girlfriend, Klaire Sampson.
But in May last year tragedy struck again when Ms Sampson died after a motorcycle accident.
Now Mr Burley has also been killed, along with his new partner, after the 310 Cessna he was flying crashed into bush south of Port Macquarie, on the north coast, on Friday.
The aircraft had taken off from Toowoomba, crashing about 4pm. Locals said Mr Burley had a private airstrip on his property at Johns River, near the crash site, metres from the Pacific Highway.
When emergency services arrived, they found the bodies of Mr Burley and his partner inside. They were the only people on board.
His devastated family on Saturday night remembered the successful financial executive as an "exceptional pilot" who was loved by many.
"All I can say is may he fly high above us all as an angel," his nephew Lucas Young said.
Mr Burley had thousands of hours of flying time under his belt, having dedicated his life outside work to his passion for aviation.
He divided his time between Sydney and his rural property on the Mid North Coast.
He was working for city-based firm Burley White & Co, which described the former Allianz general manager as a "passionate pilot".
"Grant … has ferried many aircraft and crossed all major oceans often solo in single engine aircraft," the company's website states.
He was also involved in owning a residential village, leasing speciality aircraft to the New Zealand Government and had advised the Australian Government on anti-money laundering laws, according to the firm.
The crash scene was under police guard on Saturday night while the Australian Transportation Safety Bureau took over the investigation.
"A team of three Transport Safety Investigators from Canberra will travel to the site shortly to begin their investigation," ATSB said in a statement.
"The investigators will examine the wreckage; gather any available recorded data and interview witnesses."
A preliminary investigation report is expected to be released in about 30 days but a final report may take up to a year.
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