Memorial tree for air crash doctor

IN LOVING MEMORY: A memorial tree for Ralph Saxe, who died in an air crash in Timona Park two years ago.
IN LOVING MEMORY: A memorial tree for Ralph Saxe, who died in an air crash in Timona Park two years ago.

Some days Joanne Saxe feels it's been longer than two years since her husband was killed in a Feilding plane crash; some days she wakes up thinking it was yesterday.

Radius Medical-The Palms managing director and pilot Ralph Saxe died alongside his friend, chiropractor Brett Ireland, when the Yak-52 plane he was flying crashed at Timona Park two years ago.

Mrs Saxe, with close friends and family, marked the second anniversary of the crash yesterday by planting Dr Saxe's favourite tree, a smoke tree, near the crash site.

"It's such a beautiful tree. It's so soft and gentle and it waves gently in the wind.

"I decided I wanted to plant one for Ralph at home and not one, not two, not three would grow.

"Since the tree was so special to him I thought I would plant one at Timona Park and it would help tell his story to people."

Mrs Saxe said she had put a plaque underneath the branches of the tree so those passing by could read about how special Dr Saxe was.

"It flowers in January so in a way the month of the anniversary is when the tree is at its best."

Joanne and Ralph were married in 2007 and worked together at Radius Medical-The Palms for 17 years.

Mrs Saxe has also set up a memorial seat for Dr Saxe at Pauanui airfield on the Coromandel Peninsula, where the two holidayed every second weekend.

A Civil Aviation Authority report, released on the first anniversary of the crash, found a loose screwdriver lodged into the elevator control of the plane left Dr Saxe unable to pull up after completing a slow roll.

The report also made mention of Dr Saxe's heroic last-ditch move to avoid impact with nearby houses on the western side of Timona Park.

Moments before the crash he performed a roll to the right, which was interpreted as a way of avoiding those houses.

"It's sometimes quite hard to accept that he is gone," Mrs Saxe said.

The first winter inside without him was the hardest. Mrs Saxe took up knitting and got through with the support of the community. She said help had not dimmed with time. She woke up again on this year's anniversary to 30 messages of support on her phone - a shower of texts, presents and love to get her through.

Manawatu Standard