Long wait for answers over skydive tragedy

Rahi Hohua and Joey King. Photo / Facebook
Rahi Hohua and Joey King. Photo / Facebook
A former Auckland man confessed he was as "nervous as hell" about a skydive in Queensland shortly before he and his Kiwi fiancee were killed in a fiery plane crash.

"So I woke up this morning nervous as hell about the sky diving today. I'm about to conquer my greatest fear. I love everyone lol," 32-year-old father of four Joseph King wrote on his Facebook page on Saturday morning.

His mates told him to stay strong and wished him luck. Others joked around as Mr King, known as Joey, wrote one of his last posts: "Bye everyone lol where off (sic)".

The farewell proved prescient.

Mr King and his fiancee Rahi Hohua, 27, were among five people killed on Saturday when the skydiving plane they were in crashed in flames at Caboolture airfield, 50km north of Brisbane. It took off and had barely left the runway before it veered left and plunged to the ground.

As the bad news spread, messages on Mr King's Facebook page turned into despair: "Cuz hope it wasn't you's on that plane! Let us know you alguds," wrote one friend.

Then came messages of love as the bad news was confirmed.

Ms Hohua, a mother of two children and originally from Hamilton, and Mr King, who hailed from Manurewa and has three children, lived in Logan, Queensland.

They had been together for more than two years and planned to marry, Ms Hohua's brother Inia Hohua told reporters at Caboolture airfield.

"Honestly, words fail and it's just crushing," he said.

He described his sister and her fiance as "beautiful".

"They were consumed by love. If you knew them you would have seen it," he said.

"I know people always say they were awesome but it's not just because she was my sister.

"We're holding up all right - we're still letting it all sink in but we're all together in this and it's changed my life today, crazy.

"Just cherish your family, cherish everything every second a chance you've got because not in my wildest dreams would I have thought this would have happened.

"We love you Rahi and Joey," he told reporters.

Mr Hohua said family members had rushed to the crash scene and were supporting each other.

Before taking off Ms Hohua and Mr King exchanged excited Facebook messages about the planned skydive, a gift from Ms Hohua to Mr King.

Yesterday their friends took to social media to express their grief.

Benji Minogue wrote on Mr Hohua's page: "Inia, we are so shocked and deeply saddened by the tragic loss of these beautiful young people.

"Rahi and Joey have left strong impressions on our hearts and we are blessed and all the more richer for having known them, and sharing good times with them."

Meanwhile Mr King's mates were having a get-together in Logan to celebrate his life.

Online profiles for the pair say Mr King attended Manurewa High School and had worked for Metcash, an Australian distribution and marketing company.

Ms Hohua's profiles say she attended a high school in Australia and Fraser High School in Hamilton. A nail technician by trade, she had written of a wish to broaden her horizons.

The Cessna 206 they were travelling in, run by Adrenalin Skydivers, crashed in what local police labelled an "unsurvivable" plunge to the ground.

Among the dead were experienced instructors Glenn Norman and Jurag Glesk, who had thousands of jumps under their belts.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau is investigating what happened.

The Sunday Mail newspaper reported that Adrenalin Skydivers was involved in a similar incident in 2010 when seven people survived a crash when a plane suffered engine trouble on takeoff.

The company uses the Caboolture Airfield for taking off on tandem jumps. Skydivers land on a nearby island.

The Australian Parachute Federation (APF) will conduct its own investigation into the crash, parallel to the ATSB probe, the ABC reported.

APF spokesman Grahame Hill told the ABC it was the third flight of the day, the pilot was competent, and conditions were "close to ideal".

"We haven't come up with anything definitive at all yet - we need to know certain things about the aeroplane, what they can glean from the crash site itself," he said.

 

- by Jimmy Ellingham

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