Skip­per’s self­less act in crash

The Morning Bulletin - - NEWS - Te­gan An­nett te­gan.an­nett@glad­sto­neob­server.com.au

FROM the emer­gency re­sponse to a fa­tal plane crash to the days of comb­ing through the wreck­age that fol­lowed, an Ag­nesWater man wit­nessed it all.

Town of 1770 LARC owner Neil Mer­gard of­fered his am­phibi­ous boat to help ac­cess the re­mote lo­ca­tion where the 1770 Cast­away plane ploughed into a beach at Mid­dle Island.

The crash on Tues­day left a 29-year-old United King­dom woman dead and three oth­ers se­ri­ously in­jured.

His boat, which has land and sea ca­pa­bil­i­ties, was used to take Aus­tralian Trans­port Safety Bureau in­ves­ti­ga­tors to the scene on Wed­nes­day and Thurs­day.

On Thurs­day, Mr Mer­gard watched as the en­gine was cut out of the plane, a key part of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“(The in­ves­ti­ga­tors) are very thor­ough, I’ll give them that much,” he said.

Two in­ves­ti­ga­tors and Ag­nesWater State Emer­gency Ser­vice vol­un­teers combed the beach area look­ing for clues as to what caused the crash.

Ag­nesWater pi­lot Les ‘Woody’ Woodall was fly­ing the plane when it went down, sight­ing “en­gine fail­ure” as the cause when he spoke to wit­nesses.

Mr Mer­gard found it dif­fi­cult to put into words the scene as they ar­rived.

“It was a pretty shock­ing scene,” he said.

A res­cue he­li­copter had landed near the wreck­age and paramedics were al­ready work­ing to sta­bilise all four pas­sen­gers.

But one woman, a 29-year-old from the United King­dom died at the scene.

The tourism op­er­a­tor had a unique look into a gov­ern­ment-body in­ves­ti­ga­tion dur­ing the two days he spent at Mid­dle Island with the ATSB.

It’s the 122nd time the LARC, which is listed as an Ag­nesWater SES as­set, has been used in an emer­gency re­sponse.

Mr Mer­gard said he had been in­volved in res­cues at the mostly-in­ac­ces­si­ble beach land at Mid­dle Island be­fore.

“It’s a pretty sad state of af­fairs,” he said. “It gives you a sense of re­lief though when you have that sort of sup­port around you with the emer­gency ser­vices.

“It’s great ev­ery­one’s also ral­ly­ing around Bruce (Rhoades) and the busi­ness.”

The plane crashed with four peo­ple on board, in­clud­ing pi­lot Woody, a UK woman (now dead), a 13-year-old boy and a 21-year-old woman from Ire­land.

Mr Mer­gard said de­spite the tragic de­tails of the event, it showed how united the small town­ship was.

“I love our com­mu­nity, how solid it is,” he said. “Ev­ery­one is so lov­ing and com­pas­sion­ate in spirit.”

The ATSB spent their last day on site on Thurs­day. The in­ves­ti­ga­tion is on­go­ing.

PRI­OR­I­TIES: 1770 LARC owner Neil Mer­gard of­fered his am­phibi­ous boat to help ac­cess the re­mote lo­ca­tion where the 1770 Cast­away plane crashed.

It gives you a sense of re­lief when you have that sort of sup­port around you — Neil Mer­gard

PHOTO: RACQ CAPRI­CORN HE­LI­COPTER RES­CUE

DEV­AS­TAT­ING: The plane crash at Mid­dle Island.

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