Amazing Brett

Reporter: Andrea Burns

Brett says “I got into a dive and I couldn't get out of it”

Chris says “I probably used Brett as a bit of an inspiration throughout my football career”

Brett says “it just happened too quick, before you knew it, it was all over”

Chris says “when I saw the state that Brett was in, I actually walked out of the room within 10 seconds and burst into tears out in the corridor”

The plane crash that inspired an AFL legend...

Brett says “I just remember the ground coming at me pretty quick”

Brett Mainwaring is Chris Mainwaring's big brother.

Chris, the Eagles hero...

Brett, the hero's hero.

Brett's a farmer.

... And as private as Chris is public...

But they're close... very close.

as you'd expect, when one of them should be dead.

Brett says “October 15 was the day, 1986. Yeah it was a good morning, nice fresh clean morning”

In WA's dusty north, big paddocks, ten thousand acres, and a single engined cessna, and a day that changed the lives of the whole Mainwaring family.

Brett shouldn't have been in the sky, but he was helping a mate spot sheep. was alone in his plane in the air ... motorbike riders in radio contact, down below.

“cause you can see a lot more from the air than you can on the ground - cause there's a lot of creeks running through the actual paddock we were doing and what you do is you fly around, spot the sheep, then you call up the bloke on a motorbike to go and tackle them sheep, keep them moving, we all try and get them in one direction”

It was around six in the morning; Brett had been in the air half an hour...

“what happened, I spotted some sheep in a creek and they weren't moving and I put the bikes onto them but the bikes were further away, so I went over to have another go at em, with the roar of the aeroplane they usually move off”

This day became anything but usual...

Brett says “it appears to me, I don't know, like a gust of wind got the outside top of me wing on the right hand side of the aeroplane”

The experienced pilot had stalled the plane...

A warning alarm ... “the left hand wing wasn't actually flying”

no time to feel scared..the aircraft dropped like a stone.

The impact was devastating the plane crumpled like alfoil, wings ripped off.

Brett Mainwairing was trapped and horribly injured

His legs were through the fuselage

His face smashed his bones shattered

his bottom lip torn off.

Brett Mainwaring was badly injured, but he was alive.

The motorbike riders spotted the smoke from the smashed plane and rushed to help their broken mate.

Doctor Ron Jewell was then the Carnarvon District Medical Officer - this, the first air crash he'd ever attended, is seared into his memory

No ambulance, the doctor was flown, then driven over rough paddocks, in a ute to the crash scene.

Doctor Ron Jewell says “He had horrendous facial injuries, his face was very distorted and his femur, his thigh was very obviously distorted and we could see what we had to do from that point on”

A broken thigh bone was causing internal bleeding. Dr Jewell had to resuscitate Brett, putting in an iv line, in the dust. A nerve block helped dull the excruciating pain from the many other broken bones.

Loaded back into the ute, the race was on to get Brett to hospital...

Dr Jewell remembers the trip as surreal... hearing children doing lessons on the ute two-way, as he pumped fluids into his badly injured patient

Stabilised in Carnarvon, his bottom lip sown back on, Brett was then airlifted to Perth. for the first time, doctors were able to make a full assessment of his horrible injuries.

Broken wrist

A Broken thigh bone - would he walk again?

Broken ribs... At the base of his spine, a broken coccyx... broken jaw, shattered cheekbones.

Leah Mainwaring only knew it was Brett because she recognised not her son's face, but his feet.

“I don't know if it's just a mother's instinct, she knows what their feet are like and their body”

The first sight of his damaged son was too much for Brett's Dad, Hub. “I only stayed about half an hour, then I trundled off back, I couldn't um, I couldn't hack it”

For Chris, everything changed. “His eyes were stitched closed, his lip was completely gone, his leg was all crunched up and bones - it's not a sight you want to see any family member in”

And so started the hard road back for Brett, a rehabilitation that was gruelling. His face rebuilt with one of these

Brett says “I think I got down to about 37 kilos in hospital cos me jaws were wired and they couldn't feed me,, so ended up just knocking a few teeth out so they could make a square so they could pump soup n that down to me chips”

Chris says “for him to have been told you may not be able to walk, you may not be to this that would have been red rag to a bull, that's the sort of person Brett is...

But I do remember going over to Shenton Park and seeing him having to learn to walk again and all that and seeing the pain and you know he'll never tell you about it, he'll never tell you what pain he goes through - that's not Brett”

Sister Wendy and other brother Glenn, also great support... they'd played together as kids they now pulled together.

Hospital was tough, but Brett who could so easily have been killed in the October smash, was home for Christmas, and Chris' 21st.

Chris says “if someone walked in an saw someone in the state that he was in and to say that he was going to be at your 21st 10 weeks later, you would have said absolutely no way - and he was there, I still remember him being there”

The man who shouldn't have walked, was even racing horses - here, the winning jockey.

Incredibly, twelve months to the day... , Brett's wife gave birth to their son Stephen - delivered by Dr Jewell, the doctor who'd help save Brett's life.

Little brother Chris certainly knows the highs and lows himself, suffering more pain than most footy stars. But it was his big brother's grit that pulled him through the bad times. “it's always been in the back of my mind that every time that I think I'm going through a hardship, here I was playing football and I've had injuries - it was always easier to remind myself of what he went through”

Brett Mainwaring's a tough, country bloke. You get the feeling the crash still haunts him, but going on about it isn't his way.... there's work to be done, “no good whinging about it”

Chris what is it about this guy that makes him so special?

“Well he's alive, that's the first thing, we're all pretty happy to have him still around”

Leah says “we are grateful he's alive - and to all those people who helped him at the time, we're very grateful”

Whether it's working, or sharing a beer, the Mainwaring brothers know now every minute counts.

Incredibly, flying remains part of Brett's life - if this is his second chance, he's not wasting it... like the Eagles, like his little brother, he's flying high...

Brett says “I'll put it to you this way, you're up in the air, its open spaces... just freedom”