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Woman recalls ‘bloodcurdling scream’ as man plummeted

A woman who was next in line to take the zip-line that killed Adelaide tourist Dean Sanderson has revealed the horrifying moment the man plummeted to his death.

Mr Sanderson, 50, died on Tuesday when the zip-line run by Jungle Surfing Canopy Tours in the Daintree Rainforest in Far North Queensland broke, causing him to fall more than 10 metres.

His 48-year-old wife Shannon also fell and remains in a serious condition at Cairns Hospital.

Witness Mardi Liebelt, who was waiting in line behind the couple when the tragedy occurred, has spoken to the ABC about the terrifying ordeal.

“The twang when the zip line came back up made an awful noise, then there was just silence for what seemed like forever,” she told the ABC.

“And then the lady was just screaming for help, a terrible bloodcurdling scream that I never wish to hear again.”

Ms Liebelt, from Hervey Bay, said a fellow tourist, a paramedic who was also waiting to use the flying fox, rushed to help the injured couple.

“He managed to revive (Mr Sanderson) for a while, but he died because of massive head trauma,” Ms Liebelt said.

Following the accident, Ms Liebelt and her partner Andrew Hayward were both trapped in the tree-high platform for an hour before they could be rescued.

She said staff and fellow customers were traumatised and she “broke down in tears” after the Sandersons fell.

Ms Liebelt was one of the last people to speak with Mr Sanderson and described the couple as “very friendly”.

“Ironically, they were telling us how they had zip-lined in Bali and how there’s not much in the way of safety there and how they felt much safer being back in Australia and zip-lining,” she told the ABC.

The witness said she was struggling with feelings of guilt.

“We feel guilty, we feel lucky, we have felt every emotion in between and still do,” she said.

“We don’t know why it was them and not us.

“We haven’t slept. Every time you shut your eyes you relive it because you see it again.”

Fellow witnesses Samantha Salyer and Joseph Maghe, from the US, told Seven yesterday they had just finished the same section of the zip-line before watching the couple fall.

“We got to the fifth platform and there were two couples behind us,” they said.

“There was a loud noise, we turned around, one of the lines had snapped and we saw them fall. It shook the entire tree we were on. They hung there, then they both came down at the same time.”

An emotional Jungle Surfing Canopy Tours director Phoebe Kitto told The Courier Mail she couldn’t explain how the tragedy unfolded at this point, but the business would co-operate fully with authorities to investigate how it had occurred.

“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,” she said.

“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.”

According to the Courier-Mail, this week’s accident comes 15 years after a similar tragedy in Cape Tribulation.

In 2004, 21-year-old British tourist Lucy Keen fell 20 metres ad was left permanently brain damaged after operator Steve Jay Clark failed to secure her harness properly.


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