A mother-of-eight who died in a “horrific” skydiving accident in far north Queensland on Friday has been described as “a beautiful soul” who “brought joy to everyone”.
Kerri Pike, 54, was in a tandem skydiving pair above Mission Beach, about 110 kilometres south-east of Cairns, about 3pm on Friday, when it is believed a mid-air collision with another skydiver occurred.
The collision is thought to have caused damaged the parachutes and as a result, the bodies of experienced skydiving instructors Peter Dawson, 35, and Toby Turner, 34, as well as Mrs Pike were found near Alexander Drive.
The sole skydiver involved in the incident was found in a residential garden and emergency services the discovered the tandem pair soon after in a nearby tree.
Social media has been flooded with tributes and heartfelt condolences for the three people killed in what police have described as a “horrific accident”.
Patricia Thomas, who lived in Mission Beach for 30 years and was a friend of Mrs Pike, told Fairfax Media that the mother-of-eight was “a beautiful soul inside and out … with a very infectious personality”.
“She had the most beautiful and engaging smile,” she said.
“I’m privileged to have known her as a friend and see the joy that she brought to everyone.”
Ms Thomas said Kerri and her husband Alister were “always there for everyone else in the community” while running a charter fishing boat business and raising eight children.
“Alister was always doing everything for the community, he was a former local councillor, beautiful operator and brilliant character,” she said.
Ms Thomas was confident the community would rally around those who the victims left behind, with the town having experienced plenty of tragedies over the years.
Mrs Pike was also good friends with one of the professional skydivers who died in the accident – Peter Dawson.
Nichole Burke, a former colleague and friend of Mr Dawson, said he was a “straight-up friendly guy who loved what he did”.
“My gut just sank when I heard about the accident and I just prayed it wasn’t Peter, then my worst fears were confirmed,” she said.
“Because of who he was and how he was, you really feel it. The world will be a sadder place without Peter.”
Ms Burke said Mr Dawson had completed “thousands of jumps”, participated in world-record skydives and was always “there to lend an ear and talk through dramas”.
Social media tributes had also been posted in memory of Mr Turner.
“Heartbroken to hear about yesterday’s accident in mission beach. A place where everyone knows everyone,” Mitchell Peters wrote.
“Toby was a friend, and a really top guy, and will be missed.” I feel for Kerri’s big family today as this horrible news sinks in. Treat every day you have like gold.”
“Absolute tragedy,” Ryan Crisp posted.
“I had the pleasure of meeting Toby the night before my skydive and even asked him if he would do the dive with me as we spent the night drinking at the bar.
“But it was his day off so he couldn’t. You never know when your time is up so live your life to the full! Taken far too soon! RIP Toby!”
The Queensland Police Service is leading the investigation and being assisted by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and Australian Parachute Federation.
“It’s a horrific scene, an unfortunate scene and there’s going to be a lot of families very upset as a result of this,” Senior Sergeant Peter Williamson said.
“Any accident involving skydivers is not good for anyone.
“This will have a huge effect on tourism and everyone knows Mission Beach runs on tourism.”
Police hope mobile phone footage will help them piece together what happened after the three victims came down about 1.5 kilometres away from the regular landing zone.
Investigators have asked anyone with footage of the incident to contact them.
“We’re appealing for anyone that did witness or has some of kind of footage to come forward to police,” Senior Sergeant Williamson said.
Operating company Skydive Australia on Friday said both instructors were experienced.
“One of the deceased, a highly experienced instructor who had completed thousands of jumps, was completing a solo jump,” they said in a statement.
“The other two were jumping as a tandem pair, a highly experienced instructor and a customer.”
The company has suspended skydiving operations at Mission Beach while investigations into the incident continue.
A report will be prepared for the coroner.