He came to Australia to help.
An adventurer with talents in music and photography, 22-year-old William Jennings was set to be reunited with his family in the United States in just over two weeks.
But now his loved ones are working to bring his remains home.
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Jennings, a mechanical engineer, was one of three people who died when a fire surveillance plane crashed near Cloncurry in remote northwest Queensland on Saturday afternoon.
The crew, who worked for Victorian-based aerial firefighting company AGAIR, were conducting line scans during the flight from Toowoomba to Mt Isa.
It’s not known what caused the Birddog 370 light plane to crash.
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Workers at a nearby Eloise Copper Mine at McKinlay raised the alarm about 2.30pm. A rescue helicopter crew spotted the wreckage and officers arrived on the scene about 5pm, confirming all three on board had died.
Jennings’ uncle Chuck Farruggia said his “beautiful and amazing nephew” had been about halfway through a month-long mission to help the Australian bushfire-fighting efforts.
“Then he would be returning to the USA. He was the only son of Denise (my sister) and Joe Jennings,” Farruggia wrote on Facebook, also describing Jennings as a “badass”.
“Please pray for our family. I say thank you and God bless.”
William Jennings has died, aged 22, in a bushfire-fighting plane crash in Queensland. Credit: Facebook
Jennings, who graduated from Northeastern University, showcased his photography skills on social media, which are filled with remarkable shots from across the US, including Alaska and Hawaii.
Family friend Dennis Wickes described him as a “bright young soul” with an “exciting life ahead of him” who was helping “those in need”.
“Our hearts are heavy as we mourn the loss of William Joseph Jennings, a bright light extinguished too soon,” he wrote on a GoFundMe.
“William was known to bring light to any room he walked into, and his sense of humor was infectious. He was an avid hiker and lover of nature, always seeking new adventures in life.
“William was a talented saxophone player who played at the Carnegie Hall.
“He was full of life and potential, and left a mark on everyone he met.
“His heart was always focused on making a positive impact on the world, no matter how big or small. We know that his legacy will continue to inspire others to make an impact.”
William Jennings was in Australia to help the bushfire-fighting effort. Credit: Facebook
The crowdfunding campaign aims to repatriate Jennings home for a “proper burial” and for his loved ones to “say their last goodbyes”, according to Wickes.
“William was a wonderful human being, and it is heartbreaking that he left the world so soon. But, we can come together to honour him and give him the farewell he so deeply deserves,” he said.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese have expressed condolences to the families of the three people killed in the crash.
AGAIR said: “We are all utterly devastated, and our heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with the families of our staff.”
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