Wondai residents marked 30 years with a small ceremony at the memorial site. Photo: Holly Cormack.
Wondai residents marked 30 years with a small ceremony at the memorial site. Photo: Holly Cormack.

Burnett town marks 30 years since aircraft tragedy

AFTER 30 years, Wondai residents are still raw with the memory of one of the greatest tragedies to ever hit the South Burnett region.

In remembrance of the 1990 Beech King Air E 90 VH-LFH plane crash, daughter of victim David Ferrier, Isobel, announced that she would be visiting the memorial site erected in Wondai.

Locals responded by organising a small service lead by local pastor Cameron Rub and Winston Burrows, and attended by relatives of the crash victims, surviving first responders, and Wondai residents.

Ms Ferrier was just 14 when she received the news of her fathers death, telling the Australian she was on a school camp at the time.

Since that fateful day, the barrage of unanswered questions surrounding the mysterious flight, reported at the time as a ‘secret mission’, has weighed upon her. The 30th anniversary presented an opportunity for her reach out to others who’s lives were touched by the tragedy, and finally receive some closure.

According to an investigation by the Bureau of Air Safety Investigation, on July 26 1990, the aircraft was conducting a night departure from Wondai Aerodrome when tragedy struck.

After an apparently normal take-off, it ‘struck the ground 600 metres beyond the end of the runway in a shallow, wings level descent and at high speed’.

The aircraft was destroyed by impact forces and fire

Six occupants on board the flight at the time - one crew and five passengers. All were killed with the exception of one passenger, who survived with serious injuries.

The plane was flown by Anthony William Hammett, a former army brigadier and helicopter pilot who served in the Vietnam war.

Mr Hammett, property developer James Brady, 50, corporate solicitor David Charles Ferrier, 46, accountant Peter Weir, 53, and Technical Association consultant Kenneth Gerald Newton, 59, were all killed.

Anthony Hammett, James Brady, David Charles Ferrier, Peter Weir, and Kenneth Gerald Newton all lost their lives on July 26, 1990. Photo: Holly Cormack
Anthony Hammett, James Brady, David Charles Ferrier, Peter Weir, and Kenneth Gerald Newton all lost their lives on July 26, 1990. Photo: Holly Cormack

James John Della-Vadona, a 41-year-old Sydney Veterinarian, was the lone survivor. He was taken to Brisbane hospital with burns to 20% of his body.

Murgon resident, Rayham Francis, who had travelled on the plane between Cairns and Wondai, was the first to the scene.

Mr Francis exited the plane after it stopped in Wondai to refuel and then watched in horror as it took of again for Camden, plummeting to the ground less than one kilometre into its journey.

Mr Francis, who has since passed, told the Canberra Times he found Mr Della-Vadona, lying beside the firey scene.

“I’m no hero. I didn’t pull him out. He was thrown clear of the plane. I don’t know how,” he said.

“His trousers were on fire and he was trying to take them off so I helped him.”

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