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The Australian: David Tong, pilot and concert pianist, dies in PNG crash

January 2 2017

 Australian pilot and former concert pianist David Tong has died in a mountainous area of Papua New Guinea after he survived a plane crash but could not be reached by a rescue team.

Tong, who was in his early 30s, was a pilot for North Coast ­Aviation and crashed on December 23 in the Saruwaged Range, in northeast PNG.

He survived the crash and used his mobile phone to call for help, but the rescue team was unable to reach him because of bad weather, a report in PNG newspaper The National said. He died at the remote site and his body was ­recovered on Thursday. No other fatalities were reported.

Before his career as a pilot, Tong was a pianist with “extravagant musical gifts” and noted for his performances of Rachmaninov and Grieg. He appeared with the state symphony orchestras and on tour with orchestras in Hungary, Hong Kong, New ­Zealand and the US. He recorded a solo recital album for Melba ­Recordings.

Born in Macao to musician parents, Tong moved to Australia when he was six. At nine he ­appeared with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, and at 12 won the keyboard section of the Symphony Australia Young Performers Awards. He studied at Melbourne University and at the Juilliard School in New York.

Maria Vandamme, who produced Tong’s debut recital disc for Melba Recordings, said his performances were breathtaking for their poetry and expression of a fiercely independent spirit.

 “He soared when he made music and it was fitting that when he decided to give up his soloist ­aspirations he followed his love of flying, finding another outlet for his passion for life in the vastness of wild and dangerous landscapes,” she said. Tong’s plane crashed in a remote area ­between the villages of Dinangat and Yawan, when he was on a ­return flight from Derim airstrip.

 Matthew Westwood


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