Tragic trio to receive heavenly tribute
FAMILIES of the victims of a horror triple parachuting fatality at Mission Beach will today mark a year since Australia's worst-ever skydive tragedy.
Alister Pike - the husband of local mother-of-eight Kerri Pike, who died during a tandem jump with skydiving veteran Peter Dawson - broke his silence to speak exclusively with News Queensland.
"We want a pure, raw celebration of their lives," Mr Pike said.
"We've seen the best of humanity come forward out of this tragedy."
About 10 skydivers - including Mr Dawson's father Bob, who will make a tandem jump - will create an aerial tribute in honour of the beloved trio before hundreds gather for a community memorial on the beach.
"We can't find words to describe the outpouring of emotion and support we've felt from the community,'' said Mr Pike, a local fishing charter guide.
"Humbled and grateful doesn't do it justice.
"If it wasn't all so sad, it would be beautiful."
Solo instructor Toby Turner, 34, tandem instructor Mr Dawson, 35, and Mrs Pike, 54 - who had been gifted the tandem jump as a birthday present - died in a mid-air collision at a speed of up to 220km/h over the popular jump site in far north Queensland on October 13 last year.
It is believed the "premature deployment" of Mr Turner's main parachute while he was "directly underneath" the tandem pair was to blame for the accident, a pre-inquest conference in Cairns heard in August.
Footage from a GoPro camera worn by Mr Dawson captured the moments before tragedy struck.
"We don't want any recriminations,'' Mr Pike said.
"The evidence will come out at the inquest, we've got lots of questions that we want answers to and our day in court will come.
"The skydivers, they're all friends of mine, my family does not have a monopoly on pain and suffering, they're hurting too.''
Mr Pike vetoed plans by Skydive Mission Beach, owned by adventure tourism giant Experience Co, to continue to run commercial skydiving operations, which average 50 jumps a day, at the beach drop zone today.
"I couldn't think of anything worse, with all these parachute canopies coming down while we're trying to hold a memorial to Kerri's life,'' he said.
"I told them it was not good for them, they'd lost two of their own, and as mark of respect to stay out of the sky.
"I put up a post in a local forum, and it lit up, there was a lot of anger out there. The company decided quite rightly that they're not going to work on the day.''
Mr Pike, who was married to Kerri for 35 years, has built a "living memorial" in the shape of a stainless steel and wooden family day bed to be installed for public use at the northern end of Mission Beach.
The plaque on it simply reads: "Kerri Anne Pike: A life of family, peace and plenty."
It is a nod to the aboriginal name for nearby Dunk Island, Coonanglebah, meaning Isle of Peace and Plenty.
"Two things Kerri enjoyed most in life were her family and the beach,'' Mr Pike said.
"She did a lot of sunbaking and would go to the beach to read her romance novels. She loved her romance novels.
"We had eight kids of our own but she touched many other lives. She was always there for younger women in the community who were having issues and to help them get through difficult times.
"This will be a place for anyone to come and reflect on peace and beauty.''
A five-day inquest into the triple skydive fatality will be heard in Cairns Coroners Court from November 26.