Pilot headed for dunes before fatal crash

Shae McDonald and Tracey Ferrier

The Queensland pilot of a light plane that crashed and killed a British tourist has been praised for his actions in trying to land the aircraft on soft sand.

As the engine failed, pilot Les Woodall turned away from the water and headed for the dunes on Middle Island, north of the town or 1770, on Tuesday morning.

His best friend Bruce Rhoades owns the 1770 Castaway tour company that operates the charter plane and was flying behind Mr Woodall as they were taking tourists to the island for a 'Survivor' camp.

Mr Rhoades said he didn't see the accident unfold but issued a mayday call before landing 100 metres from the site.

"After we got him out of the wreckage I spoke to him and the silly bastard was apologising for wrecking the plane," he told the Gladstone Observer.

"Woody said it was engine failure and he told me he elected to turn away from the water and tried to go over the sand dunes because he was afraid that if they went into the water, passengers might drown."

A 29-year-old British woman died in the crash, while a 21-year-old Irishwoman suffered head injuries.

She was taken to Brisbane in a critical condition.

Her current condition remains unknown while Queensland Health attempt to get in touch with her family.

Mr Woodall was transferred from Bundaberg to Brisbane on Wednesday afternoon.

A Queensland Health spokesman said the 64-year-old was in a serious but stable condition after he suffered head injuries, a fractured spine, sternum and leg in the crash.

The fourth passenger, a 13-year-old boy, remains in a stable condition in Rockhampton Hospital.

It's understood his father was in the plane being flown by Mr Rhoades.

Detective Inspector Jane Healy said early investigations showed a mechanical fault was to blame for the crash.

"The aircraft as it came in to land has what we believe is engine failure and crashed into the beach," she told ABC radio.

The tour company published a statement on its website expressing its sympathies and confirming it was co-operating with police investigators.

"We offer our deepest condolences to the families and all the loved ones of those involved in the Middle Island tragedy," the statement read.

Forensic police investigators are expected to remain at the crash site over the coming days as they prepare a report for the coroner.