Plane crash victim Josef Hainaut.
Plane crash victim Josef Hainaut.

Plane crash victim died too young

FAMILY and friends of 20-year-old Josef Hainaut, the passenger who died tragically in last Friday's ultralight accident near Tatham, gathered at his South Lismore home yesterday around a campfire that had been burning for three days.

His younger brother Tomas lit the fire for Josef soon after the news was confirmed on Saturday.

"He was a bush baby," his big sister Helene said.

"He loved campfires."

Here quiet words are spoken and anecdotes recounted of a young man so full of life that no one can quite believe he is gone.

The popular Southern Cross University student's many friends come and go, leaving flowers and thoughts while they struggle to make sense of the tragedy.

His mother, Marie Hainaut, keeps the conversation from drifting towards grief. Right now she wants to remember her son, a larger than life character loved by many and admired by many more.

"Josef had so many passions," she said, "And things were going so well for him.

"He loved flying and wanted to get his licence.

"On his 18th birthday Josef wanted to go parachuting so we got him a jump, but it wasn't high enough so we had to get a bigger one.

"But he loved books and history too. He was such a brain and knew so many things and wanted to go to Brisbane to study after (Southern Cross University).

"He also worked with disabled people last summer. He had no problem with people being different and was so good at connecting."

His lecturer at Southern Cross University, Soenke Biermann, described Josef as an engaging young man who would come to lectures and tutorials with bare feet and big questions.

"He really took on the idea of critical thinking," he said.

"He would draw others into the conversation and always wanted to hear their opinions and to challenge his own ideas.

"We will miss him."

Josef also loved his car - an old Datsun 260Z he was restoring with the help of his father, Paul.

Members of the car club he belonged to are planning a Datsun tribute run from Brisbane for him.

Josef and his siblings grew up at the Billen Cliffs community near Larnook.

It has been a double blow for the community, as ultralight pilot Michael O'Keefe, who also died in the tragedy, grew up at Billen Cliffs.

"Josef and Michael had been great friends since they were young and they loved flying together," Marie said.

"Michael was a very good pilot. He got caught in that big hailstorm at Byron Bay in 2008 and still managed to get home safely - yet it was such beautiful flying weather on Friday...

"Josef's funeral will be at Billen Cliffs and we want his friends to know that they are all welcome.

"We're still unsure of the day, but we will let everyone know."

His girlfriend, Alexis, was too upset to comment, but his sister remembers Josef as someone you could always rely on to cheer you up.

"He was my little brother and he did what little brothers did best... but he was very sweet and loving," Helene said.

"He could imitate any voice - he was always the practical joker and the entertainer."

Leave a tribute to Josef in our comments section below.


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