A lovable larrikin who was always up for adventure is how long-time friend Cliff French described gyrocopter pilot Ken Wilkinson, killed in a crash east of Nowra on Sunday morning.
A Vietnam veteran who volunteered for service, Mr Wilkinson was a well-known Nowra businessman with a passion for adventure.
He once saved a number of children from a burning house at East Nowra after their mother had been murdered, and also survived what was described as incurable cancer.
“He would just give anything a go,” Mr French said.
“At least he died doing something he really loved.
“He was a legend, no doubt about it – I never forget him saving those kids in the house fire.”
A business partner and fellow pilot, Mr French said their friendship dated back to school days, where they were more foes than mates.
“We knew each other from school and were somewhat foes back then but we became mates when he came back from Vietnam,” Mr French said.
“He was balloted out but joined up and went to Vietnam anyway.’’
Mr Wilkinson had been flying for around eight years. He started out flying trikes but soon got hooked on gyrocopters, Mr French said.
“We started flying on the trikes but a mate took me up in a gyro and I said to Ken ‘we have to do this’, they are so much better and handle the wind better.
“He just loved it and would always be out flying.”
Around seven years ago Mr Wilkinson was diagnosed with incurable cancer of the bowel, which had spread to the pelvis and bladder.
But after undergoing treatment he defied the odds and survived.
Despite the accident, Mr French described gyrocopters as one of the safest ultralights flying.
“They are great fun,” he said.
“But at times they can be challenging to fly, like most craft.
“And sometimes, unfortunately, they can be unforgiving.”