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Tiger moth pilot Alex 'Jim' Rae dies in plane crash off Australian coast
A NEWLY married pilot from North Yorkshire has died after his plane crashed off the Australian coast.
Transport experts are investigating why the vintage Tiger Moth plummeted into the sea during an aerobatic flight, killing pilot Alex Jimmy Rae, 26, from Easingwold, and a 21-year-old French passenger, Taissia Umenc.
Australian media have reported that Mr Rae radioed base before the accident off South Stradbroke Island, Queensland, saying: “Conducting aerobatics over 3,500 feet,” but then there was silence. Pieces of the plane, including part of the propeller and its ID badge, subsequently washed up on to a beach.
Mr Rae’s wife, Alice, who is understood to have met him when they were both pupils at Easingwold School, said he had died “doing what he loved” and thanked search crews who found her husband’s body and pieces of the plane following a major recovery operation after the accident, which happened on Monday.
In a statement released through Australian police, she said: “On behalf of all Jimmy’s family and friends, we would like to thank everyone for their support and well wishes.” The couple had recently married.
Wayne Nicholson, a teacher at Easingwold School, which Mr Rae attended between 1999 and 2005, last night said he had been a pupil who “lived life to the full”.
Mr Nicholson, who taught him graphic design and got to know him well, keeping in touch with him after he had left school, said: “Whatever he got involved in, he was passionate about and gave it his all. He was interested in travelling and experiencing the world. He was really good at graphics – a natural designer.”
Assistant head John Butcher said: “He was a popular student and the school was very sorry to hear of his death. Our thoughts are with his family and friends, particularly his wife, Alice, who was also a student of the school.”
Tributes have been paid to Mr Rae in Australia. One newspaper, The Bulletin, said his death had shocked the Gold Coast boxing community, where he used to train. It said Stephen Ng, of Matrix Boxing Gym, had rallied fellow training mates to help raise money for Mr Rae’s family.
It quoted Mr Ng as saying: “Jimmy was a really nice guy. He would give everyone personal attention when you spoke to him. He loved the gym.
“He treated everyone with courtesy and respect and showed a true interest in what you had to say. He had an inner drive and didn’t need pushing, he didn’t just go through the motions when he trained, he trained with purpose.
“We are appealing to Gold Coast boxing community and anyone who has ever had the ride of their life at Tiger Moth Joy Rides we are looking for your support as we raise some much needed funds to help with all the associated costs.”
A statement released by flight organisers Tiger Moth Joy Rides said the company was “shocked and deeply saddened by the events.’ It said: “Our hearts go out to the family of the international visitor who has tragically lost her life.
“As a small tight-knit company we are devastated by the loss of Jimmy Rae who was an experienced pilot with a passion for flying. Jimmy was an outstanding person who connected extremely well with his passengers and the rest of the team.”
The company has voluntarily suspended its operations while the Australian Transport Safety Bureau and Queensland Police investigate the crash.