Dr June Canavan is one of the nine Australians missing in Papua New Guinea.
Dr June Canavan is one of the nine Australians missing in Papua New Guinea. Brett Wortman

No survivors in Kokoda crash

A SUNSHINE Coast doctor and a Sunshine Coast lifeguard are among 13 people who were killed when a plane crashed en-route to Kokoda on Tuesday afternoon.

Friends and colleagues of Dr June Canavan and Keith Gracie who were on a plane that crashed en-route to the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea are holding out hope the 59-year-old Sunshine Coast resident is alive.

Staff at the Sunshine Coast Sport Medicine Clinic at Maroochydore said they refuse to give up hope that Dr Canavan will be found alive.

Friend and office manager Elaine Kensett, who has worked for Dr Canavan for 10 years and is listed as her next of kin, is still waiting for telephone confirmation from Foreign Affairs that wreckage that had been found in the area was that of the plane upon which Dr Canavan had been travelling.

Ms Kensett said a helicopter had been able to land nearby but it was not known how long it might take for someone to reach the wreckage.

Dr Canavan had flown to Port Moresby on Monday and had boarded a light plane to complete the Kokoda Track as part of a series of mountain treks she was doing to raise $50,000 for a school in Tanzania, run by an Australian woman.

Her Klocking up the Ks" project has already raised more than $20,000 for the school.

Fielding phone calls from concerned past and present patients, Ms Kensett said that she and Dr Canavan's colleagues would continue to believe the 59-year-old was alive until there was confirmation otherwise.

"My hope is that she's alive and well, and if she is, that would be fantastic," she said.

Dr Canavan's idea to raise funds through the walk was inspired by a chance conversation that took place at a party to celebrate the life of a country woman who had fought a brave battle with cancer.

"At the party, one of the people I was talking to told me about this wonderful country girl, Gemma Sisia, who started school in Tanzania," Dr Canavan said in February this year.

During the same interview, Dr Canavan also talked about her own health battle after undergoing open-heart surgery in 2005.

"Even if you've had open-heart surgery, you can be fitter than you've ever been if you train properly," she said.

"I feel better than I've ever felt even though I've been fit all my life."

"I'm trying to stay positive that she'll make it."

Sunshine Coast swimming coach John Wallace, who has dealt with Dr Canavan since the 1980s, was struggling to believe that Dr Canavan had been involved in the crash.

Mr Wallace said Dr Canavan had helped numerous swimmers and sport people over the years and would be a huge loss to sport and the Sunshine Coast if the crash had claimed her life.

"I don't know what else to say. I'm very upset about it. I'm trying to stay positive that she'll make it," he said.

Dr Canavan was also friends with a Navy Squadron Leader who died in a helicopter crash on April 2, 2005.

Dr Canavan was travelling with her friend Keith Gracie, a father of two from Marcus Beach.

Mr Gracie's wife has confirmed he was on the plane.

She said she was in constant contact with the Department of Foreign Affairs and was waiting for more information.

Mr Gracie was also on the executive committee of the Chenrizig Institute, a patrol captain at the Mooloolaba Surf Club and ran KMG Tilt Constructions at Kunda Park.

The Chenrizig Institute and the Mooloolaba Surf Club did not wish to comment.


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