NOT-SO-JOY FLIGHT: Tourist plane crashed at Middle Island today.
NOT-SO-JOY FLIGHT: Tourist plane crashed at Middle Island today. RACQ

'I don't remember': Agnes pilot draws blank on tragic plane crash

1770 Castaway owner Bruce Rhoades is back flying backpackers on his 'survivor camp' tour, two weeks after one of his planes crashed.

Before the plane slammed into sand dunes at Middle Island January 10, in between Agnes Water and Turkey Beach, Mr Rhoades and his best mate Les 'Woody' Woodall were flying a group of tourists to the remote spot for a camping trip.

Mr Rhoades said he was flying too far behind Woody's plane to see it go down and that he didn't hear anything from Woody over the radio in the moments before the crash which killed one and injured three others.

 

WRECKAGE: One person has died and three hospitalised after a light plane crashed at Bustard Head, north of Middle Island.Photo Courtesy RACQ LifeFlight RescuePhoto Contributed
WRECKAGE: One person has died and three hospitalised after a light plane crashed at Bustard Head, north of Middle Island.Photo Courtesy RACQ LifeFlight RescuePhoto Contributed Contributed

Mr Rhoades said he had "good and bad days" since the incident but found the "best medicine" he's received was from the backpackers he's taken out since starting operations back up last weekend.

"They just shrug their shoulders and told me that accidents do happen," he said.

But since starting back up, Mr Rhoades said he had closed one camp to reduce the work load and was "not as trusting" of his planes any more.

"The odds of this happening again are astronomical but (the crash) has made me more conscious and I've changed the flight path of the tour so we're always within gliding distance of the beach," he said.

Mr Rhoades said he had to cut up the plane and was in the process of removing the wreckage. The plane's engine has been taken to Brisbane for further investigations.

Recalling the incident, Mr Rhoades said after seeing the wreckage he landed his plane on a stretch of beach 100m away from the crash site. Along with Jason Lonnon, a passenger and the father of Jesse Lonnon who was injured in the crash, and camp worker Serge Martinho, they started pulling the injured out of the cabin.

But without any explanation Mr Rhoades said his memory of the incident was foggy at best.

"I'm amazed about the things I don't remember...Serge tells me he and I and the father got everyone out of the wreckage but I don't remember it," he said.

"I remember grabbing Woody out by the belt because it broke, I remember doing CPR on the girl because it was so long and I remember flying to Agnes Water to pick up (emergency services) but that's it."

 

HORROR CRASH: Experienced pilot Les Woodall was seriously injured todays plane crash at Middle Island.
HORROR CRASH: Experienced pilot Les Woodall was seriously injured todays plane crash at Middle Island. Facebook

On the day a 29-year-old UK woman was declared dead at the scene and three others were airlifted to hospital, two in a critical condition.

Mr Rhoades said Woody was back in Bundaberg Hospital after a stint in Brisbane was doing "far better than anyone expected".

The two have been in contact almost daily and Mr Rhoades said Woody was barely able to walk, even with the assistance of a walking frame.

"His longest walk has been about 20m so it's pretty hard work (for him) because he can't put any weight on the leg that's got a steel plate on the thigh bone," Mr Rhoades said.

"He sounds like an old man which is hard because he's not...his voice is all whispery because his chest and lungs hurt like hell."

Mr Rhoades said the 13-year-old boy, Jesse Lonnon, broke both his ankles and would be in a wheelchair for the next six weeks, while the 21-year-old Irish woman was "out of a coma and talking to people" but may possibly have a brain injury.

 

Fatal plane crash on Middle Island.
Fatal plane crash on Middle Island. RACQ Capricorn Helicopter Rescue

"I've got no idea (where the investigations is at) but I wish they could come up with something positive about why the engine failed...I don't care what happens, even if I end up bankrupt I don't care," he said.

It's understood the Australian Transport Safety Bureau will provide an update to their investigation shortly.



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