Australian rescue helicopter crash in Indonesia: nine dead

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Saturday, April 2, 2005

A Royal Australian Navy (RAN) helicopter, helping victims of last week's earthquake in Indonesia, crashed Saturday night, killing nine Australians onboard,and injuring two. The Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, described the event as 'heart breaking' and said the crash of the Sea King helicopter appeared to be an accident.

The 30-year old helicopter crashed on approach to Amandraya village on the remote west coast of Indonesia's island of Nias, ferrying an emergency medical team from the HMAS Kanimbla to the village. They were part of a relief effort following the devastating earthquake on Monday.

Six from the Navy and three from the Air Force, died, confirmed Defence Force Chief, Lieutenant General Peter Cosgrove.

The dead were seven men and two women, including four air crew, with the remainder were members of the medical relief team intending to commence operations on the ground.

The two injured survivors were airlifted to Kanimbla for emergency surgery by a second helicopter from the ship that landed with a medical team after seeing smoke from the crash site.

"The helicopters had been working for a while in inserting, on the southern end of (Nias) island, medical teams which indeed evacuated some of the Indonesian people back to the ship for treatment. This was another one of those sorts of tasks," said the Defence Force Chief.

"After losing contact with that aircraft, a second Sea King from the Kanimbla, in the general area, came upon the aircraft on the ground, on a soccer field, on fire. Events unfolded from there. We know that the helicopter was flying at low height at about the time when the crash occurred. But we don't know (what went wrong)."

The Kanimbla immediately scrambled its second helicopter to inspect the crash zone for a second time after Indonesian military authorities in the area suggested the other nine passengers on board may have survived. An hour later the ship's crew members were informed that all nine had been killed and their bodies were discovered in the wreckage by a team of paramedics and rescue personnel.

Airworthiness investigators would immediately begin an investigation to find out the cause of the incident. Inquiries would include a coronial inquiry to be conducted in Australia.

The names of the dead have been released:

Royal Australian Navy

  • Lieutenant Mathew Davey from the ACT.
  • Lieutenant Matthew Goodall from NSW.
  • Lieutenant Paul Kimlin from the ACT.
  • Lieutenant Jonathan King from Queensland.
  • Petty Officer Stephen Slattery from NSW.
  • Leading Seaman Scott Bennett from NSW.

Royal Australian Air Force

  • Squadron Leader Paul McCarthy from West Australia.
  • Flight Lieutenant Lynne Rowbottom from Townsville Queensland, Formerly Launceston Tas.
  • Sergeant Wendy Jones from Queensland.


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