THE 80-year-old pilot of a light sport aircraft that crashed on Broadwater beach after experiencing engine trouble told his wife: "I thought was going to die."
Don Matthews took off from a private airstrip at Bagotville bound for Murwillumbah yesterday morning, after his two-seater Brumby had had new ignition parts installed on the engine.
"The engine completely cut out over Broadwater somewhere, so he headed for the beach and he was going to try to fly to Evans Head aerodrome to leave it there," his wife Lorraine Matthews said yesterday.
"The engine cut out once, it cut out twice, and then it wouldn't start again."
Making a beeline for the relative safety of the sand, Mrs Matthews said her husband landed on the water's edge and a wave flipped the small plane on its roof.
"The front wheel went down a hole in the water and a wave flipped (it) over."
Stuck, with water lapping around the aircraft, Mrs Matthews said her husband, a recreational pilot of more than 40 years, thought he was going to die.
"He thought he was going to drown because he was trapped, upside down."
A woman who spotted the aircraft on the beach released Mr Matthews from the cockpit and then called 000.
He was treated at the scene by paramedics for minor cuts.
About 12.30pm, Rural Fire Service volunteers and members of Recreational Aviation Australia (RAA) helped Mr Matthews right the plane.
The aircraft was partly dismantled yesterday afternoon before being taken away on a car trailer. Mrs Matthews said it was too early to say if the plane had been damaged beyond repair.
Mr Matthews is required to lodge an accident safety report with RAA and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau.