HOW DID ANYONE WALK AWAY FROM THIS?
A NORTH Queensland recreational pilot has been hailed a hero after repeatedly diving into sinking wreckage to rescue his five passengers, despite having a broken leg.
In the last of a series of miraculous escapes, one woman had to be dragged from the flooded fuselage by her hair as the plane plunged into several metres of water.
Tony Lanzi was returning after taking his girlfriend Angie Vico and four friends on a whale- watching joyflight to celebrate his 52nd birthday on Sunday when the near disaster struck. A freak gust of wind blew his Piper Cherokee 6 off the airstrip at the Lakeside Airpark near Prosperine in the Whitsundays and into an adjacent dam.
Witnesses described how the plane’s passengers bobbed to the surface one at a time nearly 100m from the airstrip before Mr Lanzi dived down again to help the next.
“I just saw him there,” Airpark owner Gary Poole said.
“It was all chaos. People were bobbing to the surface. We were trying to count them out.”
Mr Lanzi has been flying planes for 12 years. He is president of the Townsville Flyers and has also been a volunteer marine rescuer for almost two decades.
Using his experience in the field, he helped his panicked survivors to unbuckle their seatbelts after the cabin quickly took on water.
“It didn’t take long for the plane to go down,” Mr Poole said. “Some people would have done a runner.”
The crashed plane is hauled from the dam yesterday.