A father-of-three was ticking off a bucket list item when his ziplining adventure through the Daintree went horribly wrong, killing him and seriously injuring his wife.
Dean Sanderson, 50, from Adelaide, had been in Brisbane with his wife Shannon, 48, to visit their son at the army academy, when the pair signed up to go ziplining at the Jungle Surfing Canopy in Cape Tribulation, just north of Cairns.
The pair was on the second last line – which has the longest drop – about 2pm on Tuesday when a cable snapped, sending husband and wife plummeting about 16m into the rainforest below.
Witness Mardi Liebelt told Daily Mail Australia she and her husband had been next to jump when the cable snapped, and said she has been unable to shake the shocking scene from her mind.
‘It was quick,’ she said.
Dean Sanderson (pictured left with wife Shannon) was killed in a tragic ziplining accident in north Queensland on Tuesday afternoon
‘They got to the middle of the line and the cable literally snapped clean off, then it twanged back up into the air.
‘There was silence, deadly silence, and then the poor lady just started screaming – it’s a scream I never hope to hear again.’
Mr and Mrs Sanderson were ziplining through the Daintree Rainforest, a bucket list item for Mr Sanderson, when the cable snapped, dropping the pair into the rainforest below. Mr Sanderson died, and Mrs Sanderson was flown by rescue helicopter (pictured) to Cairns Hospital
Throughout the day, Ms Liebelt and her husband had been chatting to the couple about their trip as they waited for their turn on the different ziplines.
‘We aren’t sure how long they’d been away, but they had flown up to Brisbane because their son had got into the army academy, so they’d gone to see him,’ she said.
‘The husband who passed had wanted to go ziplining in the Daintree – it was on his bucket list… they thought while they were up in Brisbane they’d fly up and do it.’
Mr Sanderson is believed to have died on impact, while Mrs Sanderson, who was airlifted to Cairns Hospital with suspected spine injuries, is now in a stable condition.
A statement released by the family remembers Mr Sanderson as a ‘husband, father and great friend’, whose death is a ‘tragic loss’.
‘His wife Shannon is currently in hospital recovering after also sustaining injuries in the accident,’ the statement read.
‘We would like to thank the Queensland Police, Queensland Paramedics and the tremendous staff at the Cairns Hospital for their support.
‘We remember Dean as a loving husband, father, son, brother and friend to all.’
Ms Liebelt said the rainforest the couple fell through is incredibly dense, and it is hard to know where the couple would have landed.
‘You can’t see anything down there, we don’t know what they would have hit on the way down – apparently there’s a waterfall there,’ she said.
‘He would have broken her fall – he was the first one on the line, and he would have weighed more.’
The couple, from Adelaide, had been in Brisbane to see their son after he was accepted into the army academy
A witness said there was a moment of complete silence before Mrs Sanderson’s scream filled the rainforest (scene pictured)
After the fall, Ms Liebelt said another zipliner, who worked as a paramedic, asked to be helped down so he could assist, but she was unable to move from her tower as there was no longer a cable.
‘We were on the tower for maybe an hour or more – the two staff members who were up with us had to make a rope pulley system to help us get down.’
Tuesday was not the Sanderson’s first experience ziplining. The couple had previously travelled to Bali and flown through the trees there.
As they put their safety equipment on in Queensland, Ms Liebelt said they had remarked how safe it all seemed in comparison.
‘They said the harnesses over here felt very safe, ‘Oh look at the safety here, not like what we had in Bali’,’ she explained.
Ms Liebelt said the horrific scene had left a scar on her mind, and she and her husband would be seeking counselling when they returned home to Hervey Bay.
‘We haven’t had an ounce of sleep,’ she said.
‘Every time we shut our eyes it’s there.’
Far North Police Inspector Rhys Newton said it was a ‘tragedy’.
‘This is a tragic incident and one that, once we know the full circumstances, we hope we can help to ensure never happens again,’ he said.
‘We are providing support to the family and other witnesses involved.’
Workplace Health and Safety officers are continuing to investigate alongside police, who will prepare a report for the coroner.
Detectives will prepare a report for the coroner.
Phoebe Kitto, a director of Jungle Surfing, told The Advertiser the company will be cooperating with workplace health and safety officers throughout the investigation.
Daily Mail Australia has contacted Jungle Surfing for comment.
A statement from the family said Mr Sanderson will be remembered as ‘a loving husband, father, son, brother and friend to all’