Willesee’s return trip to God began with plane crash

Mike Willesee (ABC/Australian Story)

Veteran journalist Mike Willesee has revealed how miraculously surviving a plane crash changed his life forever, kick-starting a journey back to his Catholic faith, ABC News reports.

It is this faith, and the support of his family, that has sustained Willesee through his current battle with throat cancer and a debilitating course of radiation therapy that ended only recently.

The legendary current affairs presenter and reporter was too unwell to attend his induction into the Australian Media Hall of Fame on Friday in Sydney.

In a pre-recorded acceptance speech he said: "To be a journalist, for me, has been a gift that just keeps on giving."

If it wasn't for an extraordinary twist of fate 20 years ago, Willesee's career could have been cut short well before now. In 1997, he boarded a twin-engine Cessna plane in Nairobi, Kenya, bound for Southern Sudan to film a documentary. He had a premonition it was going to crash.

The plane took off in a tropical downpour and shortly after began experiencing problems and crashed. For Willesee, the experience was surreal.

"I said my first prayer to a God who I didn't understand and whose existence I was quite unsure of."

The plane crash was the start of a long journey back to the Catholic faith of his childhood.

"The plane crash changed me a lot," Willesee said. "It still took me I think maybe two years, for me to actually say there is a God."

Willesee tested his faith when he embarked on a series of investigations into reported miracles around the world.

"It developed a life of its own, it wasn't a plan, it wasn't my ambition to be the reporter for miracles," Willesee said.

He travelled to Bolivia to interview a woman named Katya Rivas who claimed to experience the "stigmata" — the wounds suffered by Jesus Christ during his crucifixion.

Willesee's interview with Ms Rivas apparently experiencing the stigmata formed the centrepiece of a TV special, Signs From God, which was broadcast in the United States to an audience of 28 million in 1999.

Looking back on it now, Willesee regards the story as the pinnacle of his career.

"I think that I was led into a situation where I saw something that was supernatural," he said.


Mike Willesee: A premonition, plane crash and testing miracles (ABC News)


Australian Story - Behind the Mask (ABC)

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