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'Much respected' volunteer killed in glider crash

The scene of the air crash that claimed the lives of two people at the Darling Downs Soaring Club on Tuesday morning, including Whitsundays man Norbert Gross (left).
The scene of the air crash that claimed the lives of two people at the Darling Downs Soaring Club on Tuesday morning, including Whitsundays man Norbert Gross (left). Joseph Barclay

A GLIDER crash that claimed the lives of two people on Wednesday has sent shockwaves through the Airlie Beach community.

In just his third flying lesson Airlie Beach man Norbert Gross, 60, died along with pilot Jeremy Thompson, 62, after the plane they were in crashed near Dalby Tuesday morning.

This has left Mr Gross' wife, children and friends in shock as they remembered him as a "big man who helped where he could".

The 60-year-old spent much of his time volunteering with both the Volunteer Cruise Ship Ambassadors and Volunteer Marine Rescue Whitsunday.

"He was a much respected, active member of VMR, a hard worker and always willing to help," VMR Whitsunday secretary and friend Roger Wodson said.

Volunteer Cruise Ship Ambassadors coordinator Brian Richardson said the volunteer community was supporting Mr Gross' wife in this hard time.

"We were as close to him as anybody in town and we are just in shock," Mr Richardson said.

"He had his own sense of humour. He was from Germany and was very dry but he had a good sense of humour."

 

VMR Whitsunday volunteer crew members Geoff Smith, Fin Forbes, Roger Wodson, David Burge, Ronnie Roberts, Mark Wright, Rod Wilson, Norbert Gross, Stu Applegate and Gay Bowden on VMR1.
VMR Whitsunday volunteer crew members Geoff Smith, Fin Forbes, Roger Wodson, David Burge, Ronnie Roberts, Mark Wright, Rod Wilson, Norbert Gross, Stu Applegate and Gay Bowden on VMR1. Dane Lillingstone

Mr Richardson said Mr Gross would arrive at 10am when the volunteering shift started and would be there until the end.

And his German came in handy too, speaking with tourists despite him leaving Germany when he was just seven years old.

"He came here to the Whitsundays from Adelaide looking for work and threw himself into volunteering," Mr Richardson said.

"He will be missed very much."

The pilot killed in the crash west of Toowoomba was identified as experienced competitive pilot Jeremy Thompson, 62, from Windwill near Gatton.

 

Back: Mal Priday (VMR), Jason Costigan MP, Ron Petterson (WRC) Keith Williams, CEO VMR Queensland; Centre: David Paddon Rotary Whitsunday President, Linda Baxter Whitsunday Lions President, Adrian Bram (VMR), Jan Clifford (WRC), Roger Wodson, Tom Manning, Ray Lewis (VMR), Paul Darruzet, Luke McCaul (APM); Front: Norm Fraser, Norbert Gross, Alan Corney, Stuart Applegate, Geoff Fitzsimmons (VMR), alongside the new rescue boat Abell Point Marina VMR1.
Back: Mal Priday (VMR), Jason Costigan MP, Ron Petterson (WRC) Keith Williams, CEO VMR Queensland; Centre: David Paddon Rotary Whitsunday President, Linda Baxter Whitsunday Lions President, Adrian Bram (VMR), Jan Clifford (WRC), Roger Wodson, Tom Manning, Ray Lewis (VMR), Paul Darruzet, Luke McCaul (APM); Front: Norm Fraser, Norbert Gross, Alan Corney, Stuart Applegate, Geoff Fitzsimmons (VMR), alongside the new rescue boat Abell Point Marina VMR1. Sharon Smallwood

In a tragic turn of events, Mr Thompson's wife Jenny had been piloting the tow plane needed to lift the AFK21 glider into the air before it appeared to nose-dive.

Darling Downs Inspector Stephen Angus said Mrs Thompson, also a competitive pilot, had landed her plane about 10 minutes after take-off, and watched on as the glider approached the landing field.

"When it was 15 metres from the ground (it has) subsequently crashed into a nearby cultivated paddock," Insp Angus said.

Another student pilot was the first on scene and attempted CPR on the two men but they were unable to be revived.

One member of the Darling Downs Soaring Club, who preferred not to be named, spoke of the utter devastation within the community in the wake of the tragic losses.

"It is so devastating for the club because it is unexpected in the circumstances," she said.

"It is very difficult, we are all trying to support each other and see what we can do."

Police will seize the glider as part of investigations into how the fatal crash occurred. Preliminary inquiries have ruled out a collision with power lines.

The investigation is expected to take a number of weeks as the Forensic Crash Unit liaises with aviation authorities including the Gliding Federation of Australia and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau.

Topics:  airlie beach editors picks general-seniors-news plane crash toowoomba tragedy tributes vmr whitsunday


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