Tributes flow for Perth teenager killed in gyrocopter crash

James Waughman (left) and Aliados Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu coach Carlos Coelho. Picture: Facebook
James Waughman (left) and Aliados Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu coach Carlos Coelho. Picture: Facebook

AN Ocean Reef teenager killed with his father in a gyrocopter beach crash in the south-west has been remembered by friends for his love of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and video gaming.

The small recreational aircraft was flying about 200m above the shoreline at Forrest Beach, between Busselton and Capel, at 2.19pm on Wednesday when it plunged into the surf.

It is believed 51-year-old Perth man Robert Waughman, who owns the aircraft, and his 18-year-old son James died on impact, but it is not clear who was flying.

James posted a photograph of a gyrocopter he labelled “the beast” on social media in October 2017, with the caption: “Gyro 565 fully operational”.

 

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Gyro 565 fully operational

A post shared by James Waughman (@j.waughman007) on

Aliados Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu coach Carlos Coelho said it had been a privilege to coach “such an amazing young man” over the past couple of years.

“I lost a little brother… I will miss and treasure all the memories we had,” he wrote on social media.

Michael Wilson, who knew James through online video gaming, said he had provided “thousands of hours of genuine entertainment”.

“I will never forget you, man. You were one of the kindest, friendliest, considerate and funniest (people),” he wrote.

Prendiville Catholic College principal Mark Antulov described the graduate as “committed and gentle”.

“(We are) keeping his family and friends in our prayers, and as a community we will provide them with support in any way we can,” he said.

Mr Waughman was reportedly a fly-in fly-out engineer.

Witnesses said the aircraft sounded “tinny”, was wobbling and may have had trouble coping with the wind.

Police are investigating the cause of the crash, with the Australian Sports Rotorcraft Association (ASRA) providing expertise, and a report will be prepared for the coroner.

ASRA president Rick Elliott told AAP there was a gyrocopter community in the area and about 500 members in Australia.

“Obviously there’s a family that’s really hurting at the moment,” he said.

A gyrocopter, which is also known as an autogyro or a gyroplane, can only sit up to two people.

Mr Elliott said a licence was not required because users could not undertake commercial operations.

But a similar certificate is issued by ASRA and people must undergo similar training to fixed-wing aircraft pilots.

“It usually takes about two years before you can take a passenger,” Mr Elliott said.

He said a person could spend $10,000 building their own gyrocopter or up to $200,000 if they purchased one from overseas.

Speaking more generally, Mr Elliott said most aircraft accidents usually involved pilot error.

“Possibly improving training is all we can do,” he said.

“It’s the same as a car – all the road rules are there but unfortunately people break them.”

According to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, the fatal accident rate between 2008 and 2016 was highest for private/business helicopters, followed by recreational gyrocopters.

Three men died in two separate gyrocopter accidents in NSW late last year, while another suffered multiple injuries when he made a forced landing.