Daintree community mourns death of tourism identity

In Attractions, Australian Cultural Exports, Australian Domestic Tourism, Community, National Headlines, Queensland

From the Cairns Post, 28th May 2015

THE Daintree community has been left heartbroken by the road death of local tourism stalwart Dennis “Lee” Lafferty.

The 75-year-old crocodile cruise operator died after his ute failed to negotiate a bend on the Mossman Daintree Rd and hit a tree on Tuesday.

He was the 19th person to die on Far North roads since the start of the year.

There has been an outpouring of grief in the town where he operated the Daintree River Cruise Centre for 28 years.

Douglas Shire Mayor Julia Leu described Mr Lafferty as a “lovely man and a gentleman” whom she had known for more than 20 years.

“He was one of the pioneers in the Daintree tourism industry and one of the oldest-running operators on the Daintree River,” she said. “He had a lot of friends and he will be very sadly missed.”

Bruce Belcher, operator of Bruce Belcher’s Daintree River Cruises, had known Mr Lafferty for more than three decades.

He said the fellow cruise operator, who lived only 500m away, would have been driving home to the Daintree from Mossman when he crashed.

He described Mr Lafferty as a strong conservationist.

“He was concerned about boats speeding on the river and causing a wake,” he said.

“That had something to do with the boats slowing down many years ago, and that’s been maintained. He was conscientious about the river, its health, and its wildlife.

“He was very popular.”

WELL REMEMBERED: Douglas Shire Mayor Julia Leu described Mr Lafferty as a “lovely man and

WELL REMEMBERED: Douglas Shire Mayor Julia Leu described Mr Lafferty as a “lovely man and a gentleman” whom she had known for more than 20 years. PIC: ANGELIQUE PATTERSON

Jaki Turner, owner of Crocodile Express Daintree River Cruises, said the community was reeling.

“The whole village is shattered,’’ she said.

Ms Turner, who knew Mr Lafferty since he arrived in the Daintree in 1980, described him as a gentleman who “did not have a bad bone in his body”. She said he lived alone with his best mate, a bichon frise dog named Melton.

“He used to go down to the local pub every Friday night. He liked being around other people,’’ she said.

Mr Lafferty is survived by his two daughters.

Police are considering whether an existing medical condition, speeding or mechanical fault may have played a factor in the crash.

Mossman Sgt Matt Smith, who also knew Mr Lafferty, said it had been devastating for the community.

“This just shows the ripple effect these incidents have on entire communities,” he said.

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