News

Debris of ill-fated de Havilland Dragon remains in treetops

The aeroplane crash site on the Hart's Oakwood property at upper Kandanga.
The aeroplane crash site on the Hart's Oakwood property at upper Kandanga. Craig Warhurst

DES Porter, the pilot of the doomed de Havilland Dragon that smashed into mountainous terrain killing all six people on board, was only metres from making it over the ridge into which his heritage plane crashed.

The Gympie Times visited the remote crash site on the Hart family's 10,000 acre cattle property, Oakwood, at Upper Kandanga last week.

A rugged trip in an ATV vehicle up steep inclines and over rocky outcrops led to the impact zone, high on the Kandanga Range.

At the approach to the crash site, family and friends have installed a memorial to the deceased.

A stainless steel cross, screwed to a gum tree, looks over the airspace which the ill fated plane got lost in. They were flying home from Monto in heavy cloud on October 1.

Mr Porter and his group had been in Monto operating joy flights to help raise money for charities.

On the cross the words RIP VHUXG RIAMA DH Dragon, October 2012, are engraved along with the names of the friends lost in the crash.

Des Porter, the pilot, aged 69, his wife Kath Porter aged 61, John and Carol Dawson both 63 and Les and Jan Devlin 75 and 61 respectively.

Under the names is the simple but poignant inscription, "Friends, forever loved, forever missed".

Twenty metres from the memorial is the crash site. It's on a steep section of heavily treed mountain.

Descending to the impact zone is tricky, getting a good grip under-foot on the steep slope takes concentration and concentrating isn't easy with the noise emitted by a sea of cicadas living in the forest.

The racket is near deafening and the pitch gets higher and the repetitive screech, louder, the longer anyone is in their territory.

On the ground, crash investigators have taken away nearly all of the wreckage of the Dragon to be scientifically examined.

A controlled burn at the site after the crash, has erased almost all remnants of the plane.

But high in the gum trees, out of the reach of investigators and the fire, wreckage remains.

Sections of tail or wing, covered in silver material, are lodged in the tops of the trees.

It shows the initial impact point of the plane and reveals how close the pilot was to getting over the ridge safely.

An extra 10 to 20m in altitude, not much by aviation standards, would have seen the Dragon clear the tree line.

A trail of broken gum trees, some snapped half way up and others sliced off by the propeller, traces the path of the stricken plane and shows the force at which the plane struck the ridge.

The people on board didn't have a chance.

A preliminary report released by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau said the impact of the crash was not survivable and all occupants were killed by "impact forces".

The bureau is still finalising its report into the cause of the accident and isn't expected to hand down a finding until late 2013.

Gympie Times

Topics:  des porter, plane crash



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