Added by Erik West on August 19, 2011
Three members of an ABC news crew died in a helicopter crash on Thursday, approximately 800km north of Adelaide.
Journalist Paul Lockyer, pilot Gary Ticehurst, and cameraman John Bean were working on a feature project and news stories when the helicopter they were flying in crashed at about 19:30 local time (10:00 UTC/GMT). Police say it could be several days before they can formally identify the victims of the crash; however, they confirmed that three people were onboard the helicopter.
Police also said it was very difficult to reach the remote area due to heavy rainfall and that the wreckage is spread over a large area. “This area is very remote, it’s very hard to access, it’s quite difficult country. Communication is very poor and we can’t even get a vehicle into where the site is,” said Police Commissioner Smith during a press conference held at noon local time (02:30 UTC/GMT).
During the press conference Police Commissioner Smith described the details of the crash:
“There was a tour guide and some people in the area. The information we have is that the helicopter had landed and [the people on board] had a conversation with those people and then departed.
“The helicopter has taken off, flown from the area, and when it was approximately two to three kilometres from the area, the tour guide and the other people in the area noticed a very large fireball in the distance.
“[The crash site is] pretty much surrounded by water… which makes it basically impassable.”
Rex Ellis, a tourism operator, had spend the day working with the crew near Lake Eyre; he was first on the scene of the crash. Ellis stated he saw the helicopter disappear out of sight shortly after the helicopter took off.
Ellis said, “We didn’t hear anything, we just [saw] a glow and we realized that something pretty bad had happened.”
The tragedy is ABC’s worst since 1983, when four staff members died in a plane crash west of Rockhampton – located about 600km north of Brisbane.