Telstra workers who miraculously survived a plane crash in Tasmania are back at work less than a week after the event.
A GA8 Airvan carrying six Telstra employees and one pilot on a work trip crashed in the Strzelecki National Park on Flinders Island at around 5:30pm on October 15. None were seriously injured despite terrible visibility and heavy rain.
Telstra General Manager for Northern Tasmania, Michael Patterson, was one of the six and has returned to the telco on light duties. He said the trip was for a community consultation with the island’s community.
“The pilot made a decision to turn the plane around and keep us below the clouds,” he said. “When we descended from the cloud the first thing we saw was a bank of trees and a hillside about ten metres below us.
“The pilot flew us into a gully with a very steep gradient, stalled the engine and landed the plane on a tree.”
The passengers were sighted at 10pm and rescued via helicopter by 3:30am. Fortunately, all the Telstra staff had a variety of smart phones and were able to call for help and report their exact locations. Patterson said the telco’s mobile service performed surprisingly well given his hilly location.
“The handset with the best coverage was the Blackberry Bold and we were able to maintain long conversations using it,” he said. “The Apple iPhone had some reception and was able to make some calls depending on how adverse the weather conditions were. But it was able to discover the latitudinal and longitudinal positions of ourselves.
“The HTC Desire had a fantastic torchlight we used to help locate us when the helicopter was flying by.”
Patterson said while he would still be willing to take the annual work trip up to Flinders Island, he’d be more cautious in picking aircraft in the future.
“A new airline has entered the marketplace and they have a bigger twin-engine plane…that can take on heavy weather,” he said. “With foresight to the future I think we can look at that choice.”
Telstra CEO, David Thodey, has called the group and all have been offered counselling services by the telco. While some suffered lacerations and required stiches, all are expected back at work by next week.