Three Australian journalists killed in outback helicopter crash
Three Australian journalists have been killed in a helicopter crash while working on a story in the Outback.
The men, who all worked for the national broadcaster, were on their way to Lake Eyre in South Australia when the helicopter went down in a remote part of the state at about 7.30pm on Thursday evening. It is not known what caused the crash.
Their deaths have sent shockwaves through the Australia Broadcasting Corporation, which confirmed that veteran reporter Paul Lockyer, cameraman John Bean and pilot Gary Ticehurst were missing, feared dead, in the crash.
Lockyer was an award-winning journalist whose career spanned more than 40 years and included assignments in Washington and Asia. He also covered the Olympics and the floods in Queensland att he beginning of the year.
Ticehurst was a well-known media pilot who worked for the ABC for more than 25 years and was on the scene when six sailors died in the disastrous Sydney to Hobart yacht race in 1998. Bean, a Brisbane-based cameraman, was a 20-year veteran of the ABC who worked throughout Australia, the Pacific and in Washington.
Investigators were heading to the site of the accident, but have said they do not expect to find any survivors. Footage from the scene showed the charred wreckage of the helicopter.
"This has been the longest of nights and we fear it will be the saddest of days," ABC managing director Mark Scott said as he waited for official confirmation of the deaths.
Mr Scott said the experienced trio had been doing what they loved best when they died, working on great Australian stories. He paid tribute to the men as "three news gatherers at the peak of their craft".
It is understood they were filming a documentary about the flourishing of the usually arid Lake Eyre region after the summer floods.
"Paul, Gary and John have each given decades of service to the ABC. They are passionate about their work and finding great stories from all over Australia to bring to the public," Mr Scott said.
"Our love, thoughts and prayers go out to family and friends of Paul, Gary and John at this terrible time."
As tributes poured in from colleagues and the public, Mr Scott said the deaths would "devastate" the organisation.
The accident is the worst to befall the ABC since four staff members were killed in a light plane crash in Queensland in 1983.
Rex Ellis, an outback tour operator, was the first on the scene after the helicopter crash.
He had spent the day filming with the crew just before the helicopter went down.
"They just took off and went pretty low on the other side of the river and then gradually went out of sight behind dunes," he told the ABC.
"We didn't see anything, just saw a glow and we realised that something pretty bad had happened."
Mr Ellis spent several hours trying to reach the site of the crash, but said that when he arrived "it was too late to do anything for them."
"They were three very good blokes," he said.
South Australian police said the wreckage was spread across a large area of land and it appeared there had been fire around the area of impact. Officers confirmed that three bodies had been found at the scene. The weather at the time of the crash was said to be clear.
Pip Courtney, John Bean's wife and fellow ABC employee, said he was "the most wonderful husband a girl could wish for".
"Devastated, broken, I will be lost without him," she said in a statement.