The airline disaster was recently commemorated at a ceremony in Mackay, reports the Mackay 'Daily Mercury'. "Far Beach was a peaceful sanctuary for the occasion, a place of remembrance, where memories of loved ones floated on the cool crisp breeze."
The occasion marked the 50th anniversary of the crash of the TAA Fokker Friendship, the Abel Tasman, which plunged into the sea off Far Beach while circling Mackay airport, killing all 29 people on board.
Relatives and friends of those lost, as well as members of the general community, came to pay their respects. Nine of those who died that tragic night were Mackay boys who attended Rockhampton Grammar School; they were returning home for the Queen's Birthday long weekend. Others included young Army personnel.
The ceremony was a poignant one, as those who attended looked out at the ocean, remembering their loved ones. More than 30 wreaths were laid at the memorial, while a Tiger Moth bi-plane flew over Far Beach and dropped a wreath into the ocean.
Harvey Cole was among those who laid a wreath. He was 24 when his father, Alfred Edward Cole, who was the director general of the Queensland Tourist Bureau and was travelling to Mackay on business, was killed in the crash.
"I can clearly recall that night, although I was only a lad," remembers M V Tronson. "My father took our entire family to the Mackay Harbour where the Royal Australian Navy had a ship (from memory a Destroyer) on hand and I can vividly recall seeing that ship go out through the Mackay Harbour heads with the sailors standing on lookout along the length of the ship."
It was a very impressionable occasion for him, and his childish imagination ran wild when he heard rumours that the sharks had taken many of the bodies.
Even today there is no certainty as to what occurred. Information in the Mackay museum indicates that it was a clear, moonlit night and there is conjecture that the moon's reflections on the water between the Island outcrops (out from Far Beach) may have appeared like the Mackay airport runway to the pilot, as the aircraft had circled and its wheels were down.
What was additionally traumatising for the Mackay community, was that even then, air travel was considered 'very safe'. No-one could have imagined that such a short, routine flight would have led to such a loss of life.
Of some interest also, Mark Tronson a field hockey author and a Baptist minister, he noted that Baptist layman Mr Frank Yeend, a former President of the Australian Hockey Association was one of the Commonwealth Air Safety offices that investigated the crash.
Now, 50 years on, as a much 'older' person, Mark Tronson can still recall those events of a traumatic air disaster and its effects on a small community. He recalls how the Mackay Christian community came together at that time, something that occurs in every Australian centre that experiences such a disaster.