The parents of an aspiring pilot have told of their ‘abusive’ behavior while trying to bring home the body of their son after taking his life.
A royal commission has been told that the parents of an aspiring Air Force pilot had spent their lives paying for the repatriation of his body in an “outrageous” move.
Michael and Patricia Fernandez de Viana shed several tears while giving evidence at the Royal Commission on Defense and Veteran’s Suicide as they dealt with the distressing emotional turmoil that took their son James to the Air Force selection process before tragically taking his own life in July 2019. Toll disclosed.
But in a shocking development after the incident, she had to pay for her son’s body to be brought back from South Australia to Western Australia – a move Ms Fernández de Viana slammed as “outrageous” as she was cremated. The cost was to be conserved.
She broke down as she revealed how a close friend managed to organize the transportation of her son’s body by road.
The move meant his son’s body was “in no fit condition” to be seen for the last time when the family arrived.
The landmark commission, announced by the federal government earlier this year, is on its last day of hearing in Brisbane.
Fernández de Vias told the commission on Friday that James preferred camaraderie on a first-hand basis, starting his career to be a pilot.
Michael said he noticed tensions began to mount as James’ training progressed.
“He (James) felt he was falling behind and not doing very well,” Michael said.
“The difficulties showed in the extreme difficulty of the test and the ability to perform many tasks … it became harder and harder.
“At one time he told me, ‘It’s like I’m flying a bus with wheels.
Michael said his son was eventually sent home on annual leave after failing the course – effectively in “limbo”.
The commission was told that James was not allowed to travel abroad for leave while on annual leave, despite apparently needing a break.
James had attempted to transfer to the Navy to become an electrical engineer – another of his passions – but Patricia said the Air Force did not help facilitate the transfer.
James was eventually transferred to an administrative role before being transferred to a base in South Australia.
Patricia said a “perfect storm” emerged: James was experiencing extreme stress due to taking “over-prescribed medication” and moving forward with various positions, “doing things he didn’t like” and Hated the food served on the base.
He stated that he believed James experienced “bullying and misogyny” because of a personal connection to the unit.
James also had skin rashes as he had to be clean shaven every day.
“He was on base, had no one to turn to, felt like a complete failure and had no one to knock on his door and examine him before he died,” Michael said.
“There was no rigorous process for obtaining welfare checks.”
After James took his life, Patricia said she had asked to visit her son’s room for “one last clue” about how he was feeling, but when she arrived the room had been cleared.
“I felt like I was violated… I didn’t get that last clue,” she said.
“There is a need for mental health check-up, we need to talk about it, it needs to be destroyed.
“Job satisfaction and mental health require a much more practical and caring process.”