Wreckage of the plane after the accident near Curl Curl beach.
RACHEL BROWNE, ALICIA WOOD
04 Sep, 2011 12:00 AM
PAUL GRAHAM tried desperately to save his pilot friend Gary Malane as their small plane sank off North Curl Curl beach.
Mr Graham's father, Brett, told of how his son tried to rescue the pilot after the two-seater ultralight plane plunged into the ocean on Friday.
Mr Graham, 32, a plumber from Campbelltown, survived the crash but was being treated for spinal injuries at Royal North Shore Hospital yesterday.
''They have given him a room looking out over the cemetery,'' Mr Graham snr said.
''Paul said, 'That's where I should be - over there.' He knows he's lucky to be alive but he's feeling very depressed about losing Gary.''
Mr Graham snr said his son recalled every moment of the crash, which is believed to have been caused by engine trouble. ''He remembers everything about the accident, about the plane ditching,'' he said.
''He tried to help Gary but he just couldn't get him out. He really tried to save him. They were good mates. He's really upset about losing him. He's beating himself up about that.''
Paul Graham managed to free himself from the wreckage and swim to the surface, where he was helped ashore by people at the beach.
He is the oldest of six siblings. His father briefly thought he had lost a son.
''I got the call every parent dreads and I thought I was down one,'' he said.
''When I got the call from the hospital and they said, 'Are you Brett Graham, the father of Paul Graham?' I just knew it was the plane. They said he had been involved in an accident and I thought he was dead.''
He said his son was still in much pain but his condition was stable.
Mr Malane, 60, a Bonnet Bay retiree, bought his ultralight craft in Ballina and flew it there regularly to have it serviced.
Marine police recovered the wreckage in a four-hour operation yesterday.
An inflatable device was attached to the the destroyed aircraft, and it was towed to Fishermans Beach, between Long Reef and Collaroy, where it was lifted on to the tray of a tow truck. A large crowd gathered.
An investigation into the crash will be conducted by Recreational Aviation Australia.