Wednesday, January 25, 2017

After the crash: Still-shaken tourism operator left to clear wreckage; Cessna 172M Skyhawk, 1770 Castaway, VH-WTQ, fatal accident occurred January 10, 2017 near Agnes Water, Queensland, Australia

A tourism operator struggling to come to terms with the horrific aircraft accident that killed one and injured three others on Queensland's central coast has been left to clear up the wreckage.

1770 Castaway owner operator Bruce Rhoades was flying a group of tourists to Middle Island, near Agnes Water, for an overnight camping trip when he saw his second aircraft, being flown by his best friend, crash on a remote stretch of beach in front of him on January 10.

Mr. Rhoades immediately landed his aircraft and ran to the wreckage to pull the three passengers, a child and two women, and the pilot from the wreckage.

He performed CPR on one of the women for an hour before emergency services declared her dead.

The other three were airlifted to hospital - the 13-year-old boy in a stable condition to Rockhampton and a woman and the pilot, both in critical condition, to Brisbane.

Mr. Rhoades said the young boy, Jesse, remains in a wheelchair after both ankles were damaged.

He said the 29-year-old Irish woman was still a fair way from making a full recovery after she suffered a serious head injury.

His friend and pilot Les Woodall remains in rehab where he is expected to stay for a number of months.

The traumatic events have taken a toll on the Agnes Water local who said he can't remember much of what happened on the day.

"I have had a military background, a command background and I have never been shocked by anything like this before," Mr Rhoades said.

"In fact, many parts of the day, even though I have been told that between Serge and I we got everyone out of the wreckage and the boy's father helped as well, I have no memory of that apart from grabbing the pilot by the belt.

"There are parts that are crystal clear, like giving the girl who was deceased CPR for over an hour, I remember that because I knew we couldn't stop."

Air crash investigators assessed the wreckage in the days following the incident to determine what went wrong.

The aircraft's engine has since been removed and transported to Brisbane for analysis and Mr Rhoades said he is desperate for answers.

"I just want them to find something," he said.

"The worst result of all will be if they can't find what caused the engine to fail. We need to know."

The difficult task of cleaning up the wreckage has fallen to the still-shaken Mr. Rhoades.

"It is my responsibility to get the wreckage off the beach and two pilot friends have flown in from New South Wales to help me do that," he said.

"It is on a remote island where you cannot get proper vehicular access... so I have been given the responsibility of cutting the wreckage up into manageable sized pieces and securing it back at our airfield pending on whatever the coroner wants to do with it."

1770 Castaway's overnight camping trips resumed on Sunday, however the number of trips have been scaled back to help Mr. Rhoades ease back into work and give Mr. Woodall enough time to get better.

"It's hard to see the happy side of life on just about anything now, however I find that when I mix with our customers that we have who are all full of enthusiasm, it tends to rub off, it is kind of a good feeling mixing with them," he said.

"I am just scaling down the operation to what I can manage on my own right now, I don't want too much pressure on myself and also I imagine sooner or later we will get a second aircraft.

"I would hate to just put another aircraft in and another pilot in right now, it would just be like sending a message to my friend (Mr. Woodall) we don't need you anymore, thanks for that."

A preliminary update from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau was expected to be released within the next two weeks.

Read more here:

Investigation number AO-2017-005:

Collision with terrain involving Cessna C172M, VH-WTQ, near Agnes Water, Queensland, on January 10,  2017

Updated: 13 January 2017

ATSB investigators have completed the on-site phase of the investigation into the collision with terrain involving Cessna C172M, registered VH-WTQ, near Agnes Water, Queensland on 10 January 2017.

As part of the ongoing investigation, the ATSB will continue to gather further evidence, including:

pilot and aircraft maintenance documentation;
additional witness statements;
recovery and examination of relevant data.

Further updates will be provided as significant information comes to hand.

Published: 10 January 2017

The ATSB is investigating a fatal accident involving a Cessna 172M near Agnes Water, Queensland on 10 January 2017. It is reported the aircraft collided with terrain and came to rest inverted, resulting in substantial damage. One person was fatally injured and three others sustained serious injuries.

The ATSB has deployed two investigators—specialising in aircraft engineering and operations—to the accident site. While on site, the investigators will survey the site, examine the wreckage, talk to witnesses and review aircraft and pilot documentation. They are expected to be onsite for three days.

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