Crash tragedy: A phone call QAS officer will never forget
QAS ACTING Chief Superintendent Warren Kellett will never forget the phone call he received 20 years ago telling him what had happened in the Marlborough helicopter tragedy that claimed the lives of five people.
Mr Kellett joined other QAS staff today for a morning tea to remember ambulance officer Douglas John “Bill” Birch and intensive care paramedic Craig Staines and their sacrifice 20 years on.
He said he had just transferred to Brisbane to take up a position as an intensive care paramedic when he heard the tragic news at 5.30am on July 24, 2000.
He said it was a normal day, just like any other.
“There was a call for service for a young child suffering croup up in Marlborough,” he said.
“A helicopter was dispatched to the property. While en route to Rockhampton there was some thick fog, so the decision was made to land at Marlborough and transport the patient to hospital by road.
“However, on trying to land the helicopter crashed and five people lost their lives.”
He said Rescue 9 was the helicopter at the time, piloted by Paddy O’Brien.
“Paddy was a relief pilot for Rescue 9, and you really got to know him because you flew with him a lot,” he said.
He said ambulance officer Bill Birch was nearing the end of his career when he was killed.
“In a couple of years Billy was going to retire,” he said.
“He was someone who was very confident, and you knew he would support you and help you out. Billy was there for you.
“Craig Staines, or Stainesy as we knew him, was a year or two above me.
“Stainesy was a laughable character but really smart and clued in. He would have done lots of great things in his career.”
He also offered his condolences to the Sherry family, who lost five-year-old Anthony Sherry and his mum Susan on that tragic day.
“It’s a day to reflect on and a day to stop and acknowledge those people,” he said.
“Twenty years later it still affects everybody.
“To Paddy’s, Bill’s and Craig’s family, we acknowledge the contribution they have given us, and we would like to acknowledge the tragic event that happened that day.
“For the Sherrys our condolences are with you and we acknowledge you were part of that event.
“I would like to thank our paramedics for continuing to do the work they do and also the broader community for their overwhelming support.”