Newcastle friends in sea plane crash 

AS the ultralight plane he was a passenger in was just seconds away from crashing into Bass Strait, off Tasmania’s north-east coast, Joel Nelson called his father in Newcastle to say goodbye.
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Police say the Belmont resident and his friend Shayd Hector, who is from Tingira Heights, were lucky to survive the serious crash.

The two 23-year-old friends were beginning a trip home to Newcastle when the engine of Shayd’s ultralight plane stopped working.

They crashed into the sea just after 3pm. A personal locator beacon they were carrying notified emergency services, who launched a major search.

The beacon helped an Australian Search and Rescue helicopter pinpoint the location of the friends, who were plucked from the water just after 5pm in the Waterhouse Island area, north of Bridport.

They were taken to hospital suffering from hypothermia after floating in the freezing water on life raft devices they had taken with them as a safety precaution.

“We just were pretty lucky I guess, we’re here alive, we thought we might not have made it there for a while,” Shayd told ABC news following the rescue. “We’ve put a plane down safe, we’re alive and we’ve lived to tell the story I guess.”

Joel’s father Tony said he had feared the worst when his son called him and said: “The plane’s about to crash, this is pretty serious”.

“I was actually on the phone to him when he crashed; it was pretty horrific,” he said.

“He told me what was happening and then all you heard was noise and I couldn’t get back on to him, I kept trying to call him back.

“I didn’t know he was OK for two hours – it was a big relief.’’

Shayd was flying his plane back to Newcastle after living in Tasmania for a few years, where he flew regularly. His father, Stephen, said his son was an experienced and responsible pilot who took safety very seriously.

“Someone was saying he made the perfect crash after the engine cut out,” he said.

“I take my hat off to the people involved in the rescue operation, they did an amazing job.

“He had just been up visiting us for a couple of weeks and he was flying the plane here because he was moving back home.”

Freedom Flight chief flying instructor Eugene Reid gave Shayd flying lessons during his time in Tasmania. From his 30 years working in the area Mr Reid said he’d never heard of anyone surviving a crash into Bass Strait before.

“To my knowledge they are the first to survive a crash into Bass Strait,” he said. “Shayd went to the trouble of taking all the safety precautions and this would have made a huge difference.”

LUCKY: Joel Nelson. Images: ABC-TV

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