Helicopter Crash Kills Three Australian Journalists
Senior journalist Paul Lockyer, pilot Gary Ticehurst and cameraman John Bean were working on news and feature projects in the Lake Eyre region when their Sydney-based helicopter went down in an extremely remote area about 140 kilometers (87 miles) north of the small town of Marree at around 7.30 p.m. local time on Thursday.
Assistant Commissioner Neil Smith of South Australia Police said the helicopter had earlier landed in the area and had a discussion with a tour guide and a small group of people, including a nurse, who were with him.
“The helicopter had taken off, flown from the area, and when it was approximately 2 or 3 kilometers (1.2 or 1.8 miles) from the area, the tour guide and the other people with the tour guide noticed a large fireball in the distance,” Smith said.
Smith said the group was traveling with a boat and used it to travel to the crash site, which is located on dry land but is surrounded by water due to heavy rainfall during the past few days. “It’s a very difficult area, very difficult terrain,” he said.
“[The group] responded and they have then contacted the police via satellite telephone and as good as communication is today, the conversations are dropping in and out continuously so it’s making it particularly hard,” Smith said.
In response to the call, police dispatched a helicopter from Adelaide which was carrying a paramedic, a detective and several other first responders. “They landed there at around 2 a.m. this morning, and they confirmed we definitely do have a crash site,” Smith said. “It is spread out over a pretty large distance.”
As of Friday afternoon, rescue workers had recovered two bodies at the crash site while a third remains missing. “We are not expecting to find any survivors but we are for thoroughness conducting further checks in that area and we have people on the site now. They have requested our disaster victim identification people,” Smith added.
The three deceased journalists were veterans of the ABC network, Australia’s national public broadcaster. Lockyer was one of ABC’s most experienced journalists with an award-winning career spanning more than 40 years locally and internationally, cameraman Bean had worked for ABC for 20 years across a diverse range of news and entertaining programs, while Ticehurst was the network’s lead pilot since the 1980′s.
Thursday’s tragedy is the worst to hit ABC since four staff members died in a light plane crash west of Rockhampton in 1983. “This has been the longest of nights and we fear it will be the saddest of days,” ABC managing director Mark Scott said on Friday.
The cause of the accident is not yet known as an investigation has not yet begun. “The Department of Air Safety will do an investigation, the police will do an investigation for the coroner, along with the normal protocols,” Smith said.
In late March, four people were killed when a single-engine Piper aircraft crashed in a paddock near Moree Airport in eastern Australia. A total of six people were on board, of whom only two survived.