’Not again?’ Zipline tragedies haunt tiny village
CAPE Tribulation locals still talk of the ill-fated moment 15 years ago when British tourist Lucy Keen plummeted 20m to disaster.
Today the tiny tourist village is again grappling with the fallout of another tragic horror.
Inexplicably, a steel zipline cable snapped mid-ride on Tuesday at the hugely popular tourist attraction Jungle Surfing Canopy Tours in far North Queensland.
Father-of-three Dean Sanderson, 50, of Adelaide, plunged 16m to his death and wife Shannon, 48, survived but was seriously injured.
"Not again?'' longtime local Mark Cromwell, owner of Ferntree Rainforest Lodge, said yesterday.
"Everyone is shell shocked. It's dreadful. It's affects us all, we're all one big tight-knit family up here. Lots of staff live here at the lodge, it employs a lot of people in the district, it's a top-notch operation they take their job and safety very seriously. How does a steel cable snap?"
Since Ms Keen's accident in 2004, thousands of visitors have strapped in for the flying fox ride high in the canopy of the world's oldest rainforest, with spectacular views to the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea, without incident.
The Jungle Surfing company has changed hands several times since, but the memory of that fateful day 15 years ago still haunts many.
Ms Keen, then aged 21, suffered horrific injuries and was left permanently brain damaged and in need of 24-hour care after she was not properly secured to her harness by operator Steve Jay Clark.
The English backpacker left the platform and, after dangling for a few moments as she desperately clung on, plummeted 20m to the forest floor.
Mr Clark, who was reportedly hungover at the time, was found guilty of grievous bodily harm by a Cairns District Court jury and sentenced to 16 months in prison.
Cape Tribulation's PK's Jungle Village staffer Vanessa Tate, a long-term local, said the "freak accident" brought back bad memories.
"It affects us deeply. It's very sad," Ms Tate said.