David Tong, a child prodigy who became a concert pianist before turning his back on music to become a commercial pilot, has died after his plane crashed into a remote Papua New Guinea mountainside, aged 34.
He had been piloting a Britten Norman Islander between Derim and Lae, across some of the country's most rugged terrain in Morobe province, when the plane crashed into dense jungle on December 23.
Tong survived the impact and was able to contact authorities with his mobile phone, but by the time searchers could get in to the area three days later he had died.
Fellow PNG pilot Michael Butler said the circumstances of Tong's death are what all pilots dread.
"I very much feel sorry for the pilot," he said.
"Just imagining him alone, up in 9,000 feet, it would have been so cold and probably raining. Eventually he just succumbed to his injuries he had or the cold and died all alone."
Rescuers said they were hampered by poor weather and the remoteness of the terrain of the Saruwaged Range. There were no other passengers.
The PNG Accident Investigation Commission is investigating the cause of the crash.
Prior to his move to PNG, Tong had been a pilot with Geraldton Air Charter in Western Australia and had accumulated more than 1,000 flying hours.
Its chief pilot and owner Wendy Mann said he was "a person who liked a challenge, a very adventurous sort".
"He loved spearfishing and skin diving and you couldn't keep him out of the water," she said.
"He was very, very bright and intelligent, quite amazing but I think [PNG] seemed another challenge and adventure for him because he got a bit bored with ordinary flying."
His ability to speak Mandarin and Cantonese made him very popular with the tourists he flew over the Abrolhos Islands and the Pink Lake.
She said he had come to them in 2014 after flying for a skydiving company at Uluru.
Treacherous flying above dense jungle
At the time of his death, Tong was working for North Coast Aviation in Lae, delivering supplies to remote villages, and had been with the company since 2016.
According to Alan Stray, investigations manager with the PNG Accident Investigation Commission, on the day of the accident Tong had conducted a couple of flights and was returning to Lae in "adverse conditions".
Mr Stray said the mountain range between the two airports has an elevation of about 10,000 feet (3,050 metres) with an opening just below known as the Saidor Gap.
"The terrain is extremely steep and heavily vegetated. It is quite formidable," he said.
Jurgen Ruh, one of the pilots involved in the rescue, said the jungle was very thick and once the canopy closed over, it was very difficult to find anything.
He said the search team, including medics and equipment, set out within an hour of receiving notice of Tong's call but the cloud cover was very low.
When they were able to return two days later with a rappelling team from Porgera mine, they found Tong had died.
"It's a wake up call for everyone, reminding us of the difficult terrain we are flying in, and reminding us that high-tech rescue equipment is not readily available," Mr Ruh said.
More than 20 planes have crashed since 2000 in PNG where the rough terrain and lack of internal connecting roads makes air travel crucial for around 6 million citizens.
Child prodigy with 'staggering gift'
David Tong was born in Macao in 1983 and began taking piano lessons after moving to Australia with his family when he was six.
By the time he was nine, he was performing with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, and at 12 he won the keyboard section of the Symphony Australia Young Performers Awards.
He attended Melbourne Grammar School and went on to study piano under Stephen McIntyre at Melbourne University.
While attending The Juilliard School of Music in New York he was awarded the prestigious Vladimir Horowitz Scholarship.
Tong regularly played with the Sydney and Melbourne symphony orchestras and was invited to appear with many of the world's top ensembles, among them the Hungarian Symphony in Budapest and the Macao Symphony.
In 2002 he played for 90,000 Festival of Sydney patrons at the Gala Domain Concert.
His debut CD with Melba Recordings was an album of Chopin, Liszt and Rachmaninov recorded at South Melbourne Town Hall to much acclaim.
"The remarkable album provides a snapshot of a brilliant young artist clearly destined for greater things," Limelight wrote at the time.
Founder of Melba Records, Maria Vandamme, was initially not impressed by the young pianist, but was stunned when she heard him play.
"My jaw dropped. I'd never heard anything like it," she told The Age in 2003.
"He has the most staggering gift I've ever encountered."
Tong's second album, Phoenix Story, featured cello sonatas of Chopin and Rachmaninov performed by cellist twins Pei-Jee and Pei-Sian Ng.
But it seems Tong was ready for something new.
In his application letter to Geraldton Air Charter he explained that aviation had always been a passion.
Ms Mann said his letter went on to say he had been travelling, performing with orchestras and in concert halls around the world — including at Carnegie Hall in New York and the Sydney Opera House — for 23 years.
"It always amazed me that he had given that up because he was world-renowned," Ms Mann said.
She recounted a performance he had given at the opening of the 2016 Big Sky Writers Festival in Geraldton which left some in tears of rapture.
The sense of adventure and enthusiasm his co-workers speak of is evident in remembrances left on Tong's Facebook by those who knew him.
Words like 'daredevil' and 'rock star' are interspersed with exclamations about his talent as a pianist and the quality of the music he made.
"It seemed like nothing could hold him back, he could achieve anything he wanted," former co-worker Jacinta Ping Shen said in an interview on regional WA television GWN7.
"Pianist, pilot, wild man, spear fisher, adventurer."
– Oliver Evans, Melbourne
"I remember first meeting him in Texas in 2001 and being struck by his sunshine-filled spirit, his strong Australian accent and vivacious temperament. He was an incredible pianist with a breathtaking technique. I remember how he burst into my practice room and deployed Chopin Etudes with ease and as a human being and friend, he will be missed. What devastating news."
– Zsolt Bognár, USA
"He was a talented pianist and a big brother who was very caring to everyone around him. He went on to become a pilot and his journeys around the world were amazing."
– Wei-En Hsu, Malaysia
"He was a riot — loved to have a good time. He was one of the first pianist rock stars I experienced in person, in a practice room, red-faced with shared bottle shouting **** in his hilarious Chinese-Australian accent."
– Paul An, USA
"In memory of David … this is what I used to hear when I woke up back in college. This piece sums up the daredevil virtuoso side of him and the way he lives every minute."
– Jing Wang, Hong Kong
"Your rendition of the Mephisto waltz will always be my inspiration. I am always envious of your talent and your daredevil attitude in life. You truly lived your life fully David. RIP my friend."
– YinJia Lin, USA