Two light airplanes collide mid air, one plane sputters its way back to the airport without a tail, the other plummets to earth and crash lands opposite a primary school as its pilot goes up in flames. As far as local news stories go, it doesn’t get much better than that. At least The Herald Sun thought so — they devoted the first seven pages of their Thursday edition to it. The eds plastered the front page with the headline “DEATH DIVE” as part of their coverage of the tragic death of trainee pilot Akash Ananth, whose plane clipped another just outside Moorabbin airport and “hurtled fatally to the ground” in the outer Melbourne suburb of Cheltenham, just metres from a school and its “220 children”. And like any good local paper, The Herald Sun rolled around in a multitude of angles, including ‘School fear over fatal plunge’, a pictorial featuring maps, timelines and illustration entitled ‘Take-off to tragedy’ and the headline that would have ACA and TT drooling — ‘Language barrier theory’:
“These Indian students have some trouble mastering English and the tower has trouble unravelling their dialogue,” said Moorabbin airport’s chaplain. “There are some hardliners that don’t like bringing them in for that reason.”
So no shortage of news fodder, then. Try telling that to Melbourne’s 3AW’s Ernie Sigley. He landed quite the scoop when the first person on the scene called him live on air just minutes after the crash to describe his efforts to save the pilot. Sigley spoke to caller Darren for a minute or so on Wednesday afternoon about the crash before thanking him for the call and um, letting him go. Normally when a radio host is lucky enough to stumble across some breaking news on a sleepy Wednesday afternoon, they’d endeavour to keep the caller on air for as long as possible, or at least pass the caller to your producer to lock in an interview for the exclusive details… All of which means Sigley may have copped a bollocking from station management during the ensuing ad break. On his return to air the afternoon radio host asked Darren very nicely to please call back. Darren never did. Ernie, in honour of your nose for news, we award you this week’s Crikey Weekly Wankley.