Witness: ‘I never want to hear a scream like that again’

 

A QUEENSLAND woman who was next in line to go on the zipline after Adelaide couple Dean and Shannon Anderson has spoken out, telling the Courier-Mail about yesterday's horrific accident at Cape Tribulation.

Hervey Bay couple Mardi Liebelt and Andrew Hayward were the last people to speak to the couple before the accident, which killed Mr Sanderson and left Mrs Sanderson in hospital with serious injuries.

Mrs Liebelt told the Courier-Mail Mr Sanderson said going on the Cape Tribulation Zipline had been on his bucket list.

Mardi Liebelt and Andrew Hayward were the last people to speak to the couple before the accident. Picture: Supplied
Mardi Liebelt and Andrew Hayward were the last people to speak to the couple before the accident. Picture: Supplied

 

"The people who had the accident were just in front of us. We were having a general chit chat as you do on the way through," Mrs Liebelt said.

"They had come to Queensland to see their son in Brisbane who had just been accepted into the army academy at the Enoggera barracks.

"The husband, it was on his bucket list to do the zipline."

Mrs Liebelt described the horrifying moment when the zipline snapped as they were making their way across.

"It snapped and they went plummeting to the ground, it was across the section where it was the farthest fall - they fell approximately 16 metres down," she said.

"There was a horrible twang, the rope then flung back up like an elastic band. Then there was silence, shock I suppose.

"Then the lady started screaming out this blood curdling scream, like something I never want to hear again."

 

Dean and Shannon Sanderson were the victims of the horrific accident. Picture: Facebook
Dean and Shannon Sanderson were the victims of the horrific accident. Picture: Facebook

 

The staff sprung into action, with one staff member then taking the zipline down to where the couple had fallen to provide medical assistance.

Mrs Liebelt said one of the other zipliners was a paramedic, and also volunteered to zipline down and provide assistance, but Mr Sanderson had already died when he made it down.

"He indicated to us that when he got there he was deceased," she said.

"He managed to bring him back momentarily but the head injuries were too serious."

All the witnesses left the area, and said emergency services still had not arrived over an hour after the incident.

Despite that fact that all the witnesses were strangers to each other, Mrs Liebelt said everyone came together to comfort each other after the tragic accident.

"No one knows each other but everyone was crying and hugging each other," she said.

"We feel lucky that it wasn't us, but also feel guilty that it wasn't us.

"Not only has he lost his life, but his wife's life has been changed forever."

Jungle Surfing Canopy Tours director Phoebe Kitto said she was unable to explain how the tragedy unfolded.

"That is largely because we don't know yet,'' Ms Kitto said, in an interview at the entrance to the site at Cape Tribulation.

"We are working closely with the authorities, and will be completely open and transparent with whatever they need to find some answers as to how this terrible tragedy did occur."

She fought back her emotion as she described the "incredibly tragic circumstances".

"Our condolences go out to the family, this is just such a tragedy. We are completely in shock here at Jungle Surfing, and we are thinking of the family first and foremost.

"We're also thinking obviously of the other people that were on the tour. Some of whom witnessed the event which is a terrible thing to have to experience.

"And our staff have been severely impacted by this tragic event."

 

Jungle Surfing Canopy Tours director Phoebe Kitto
Jungle Surfing Canopy Tours director Phoebe Kitto

 

She said all staff and other guests on the tour had been offered trauma counselling.

"We have ceased operations up to October 30 and hoping in the next couple of days get some definitive answer whether we can open after that or if it is going to be a longer period.

She told of the tough task of contacting eyewitnesses and the victim's family.

"It was a nervous thing to have to do. But I was overwhelmed with response I got. They (other guests) told me the staff were fantastic and I'm immensely proud of everyone of them. They felt safety was right from start, everything was checked and double-checked."

She said an off-duty paramedic was on the tour and was "amazing" in helping with the first response to the accident.

"I have to say to the whole Daintree community has been incredible with their support.

"We're just going step-by-step working with Workplace Health and Safety officials with whatever they need."